LePage releases Land for Maine’s Future investigation report

Good morning, folks and happy hump day.

While many of us scramble to tie up final details for Christmas, Gov. Paul LePage spent Tuesday making news. He must have his shopping done and Christmas cookies made.

LePage started the day with three judicial nominations for Maine District Court, including his legal counsel, Cynthia Montgomery. Then, he nominated three people to Cabinet-level positions, including Brig. Gen. Gerard F. Bolduc to be the Maine National Guard’s adjutant general. Then as the sun set on the shortest stretch of daylight we’ll see in 2015, LePage’s staff distributed a third news release that called into question whether the governor will support a number of changes Congress made this year to federal tax law in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.

As far as the tax code goes, the act renews a number of tax credits retroactively to the beginning of 2015. That means tax filers — most notably businesses — have been going through the year waiting to know if they qualify for a series of federal tax credits and deductions. LePage and his finance chief, Richard Rosen, will work with legislative leaders in the coming days, according to that press release, to determine what level of support there is in Maine to conform to the federal tax code. In addition to affecting individuals, the federal tax code also affects revenues to the state.

This issue caused a dust-up at the State House in February of this year, when Republicans and Democrats disagreed about what to do. At the time, the conflict was about whether businesses could claim a — I hope you’ve had your coffee — bonus equipment depreciation exemption that would allow the businesses to reap tax benefits years in advance of making infrastructure and equipment investments.

After a fight at the committee level, the bill ended up going into law with bipartisan — but not unanimous — support.

Was that all that we heard from the governor on Tuesday? Nope, but we’ll get to that later, er, I mean now.

LePage quietly releases Land for Maine’s Future investigative report

For months, as you know, LePage blocked the sale of nearly $11.5 million in voter-approved conservation bonds administered by the Land for Maine’s Future program. LePage weathered months of criticism for the move, but largely defused the issue earlier this month when he suddenly decided to release the bonds.

Still hanging out there was an audit of the organization, which was being led by LePage’s Office of Policy and Management. Secrecy around the audit prevailed until the very end. I asked for a copy of the audit report on Dec. 14 after I’d heard it had been drafted. I didn’t hear a response, so I upped my request to include a Freedom of Access Act request the following day. Five business days later, on Dec. 21, the LePage administration acknowledged receipt of my request but did not provide a copy of the report, even though it was dated Dec. 18 and published on the Land for Maine’s Future website on Monday.

At 3:25 p.m. Tuesday, the administration sent a link to the report. This kind of effort by members of the public and journalists to receive what are unquestionably public documents is typical, unfortunately for Mainers’ right to know.

The more than 55-page report — plus another 140 pages of appendices — includes just about everything you ever wanted to know about the program, except maybe for whatever smoking gun LePage was looking for when he ordered the investigation. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Santa: Democrat or Republican?

A new Public Policy Polling survey found that the number of Americans who believe there is a war on Christmas is in decline, down to 37 percent. While there is less doubt about whether the holiday will survive, the confusion over Santa’s political affiliation is skyrocketing. Check out this nifty Public Policy Polling graphic:

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I guess it’s time for today’s soundtrack. Here’s “Must Be Santa” in polka, with some real talent in the band.

Some of the poll’s other findings:

  • 38 percent of Americans think fruitcake is good, a number elevated by Republicans (50 percent) and senior citizens (58 percent) who love it.
  • Sorry Bruce Willis. Only 13 percent of Americans think Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
  • Even though the Grinch ends up saving Christmas in the end, his favorability rating is still in the tank at 18 percent. That’s still higher than Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (15 percent).
  • Democrats and Republicans agree that colored Christmas lights are better than white lights and that real trees are preferable to artificial ones.
  • 42 percent of Americans drink their egg nog plain. That’s exactly the percentage of us who mix it with booze: 22 percent with rum; 16 percent with bourbon and 7 percent with brandy. If they’d surveyed my friends and family, Rumnogs would have run away with it.
  • Rudolph is the most popular reindeer with 46 percent of the vote. Dasher was a distant second with 9 percent. Donner came in last, which according to the poll could be tied to his misplaced association with cannibalism. Wait, I thought reindeer were vegetarians? — Christopher Cousins
Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.