With Trump closing in on GOP nod, will Collins back him?

Good morning from Augusta, which is in a lull until Friday, when lawmakers will return to handle vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage.

But we’ll start with Donald Trump, the governor’s preferred Republican presidential nominee: He swept primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware on Tuesday.

Trump’s two opponents, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are staking their hopes on winning the nomination in a contested convention in July. But now, Trump is nearly on target to lock up the nomination before then.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, endorsed Jeb Bush early in the race. But she has stayed out of the divisive race since Bush dropped out in February, saying she won’t back another candidate until the convention.

However, she seemed somewhat resigned to the prospect of Trump’s nomination in an interview with POLITICO, saying he’s “very close to wrapping it up” and “I think it is likely that he is going to be the nominee.”

“I’ve always supported the Republican nominee, and I don’t think this year will be different,” she said. “But I’m going to wait and see what happens at the convention.”

It’s not much different than what Collins said at this weekend’s Republican state convention: She ignored the presidential race in a speech, but reiterated to reporters that she wouldn’t back anyone until the convention.

In Bangor, Cruz supporters stormed the Maine convention to take at least 19 delegates in the event that the national convention is contested. The real question now is if that will even matter. — Michael Shepherd


LePage: Cut 1,500 state workers; eliminate 2,500 unfilled positions

The governor said Wednesday that he’d like to trim 1,500 employees from the state workforce and eliminate another 2,500 positions that are currently unfilled.

“The current budget that we’re operating under has got 13,500 positions in the state,” LePage said at a town hall meeting in Damariscotta. “Every two weeks we make payroll and I keep track of it. We’re under 11,000 paychecks every two weeks. My goal is to 9,500 but I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

It wasn’t the first time the governor has complained that the state budget funds unfilled positions. He has tried to eliminate some of them but has been stopped by the Legislature on the grounds that they are needed but haven’t been filled for various reasons, including the inability to find qualified applicants.

The unfilled positions lead to year-end revenue surpluses, which led LePage to another familiar argument: Every penny of year-end surplus should be deposited into the state’s rainy day fund, instead of funding programs at year’s end through what is known as the “cascade.”

LePage said that if all surplus funding since he’s been governor had been put in the rainy day fund, it would have more than $500 million in it and the state’s credit rating would be better.

“On June 30 you’ve got a surplus,” he said. “By July first by dinner time, it’s all gone. No more money.”

The Damariscotta event was calm and devoid of any of the fiery rhetoric LePage is sometimes known for. Well, unless you live in certain cities that LePage took a shot at while talking about where Maine cash benefits cards are being used.

“I do understand Disney World and I do understand Las Vegas,” he said. “But who would ever go on vacation in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Philadelphia?”

Their tourism associations would disagree and BDN colleague Seth Koenig apparently does, too: His kids loved the Bronx Zoo. Here’s your soundtrack, even though it’s not autumn. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, is one of 53 House members being bolstered by a $2.6 million print, mail and digital ad campaign from the American Action Network, a 501(c)4 group that doesn’t have to disclose donors, for their opposition to government drug price negotiation under Medicare. Poliquin’s 2016 opponent, Democrat Emily Cain, hit him in a statement, saying price negotiation is a “no-brainer” that will save seniors money.
  • LePage issued nine new vetoes on Wednesday, including a solar energy reform bill. As of Wednesday, he’s up to 33 vetoes since the Legislature adjourned earlier this month, but more could come today ahead of override day. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • A woman is kicking herself after a man overheard in the Saco Hannaford that she wanted Doritos as a snack. “Good choice,” he said. “You’re a good choice,” she replied. She didn’t get his number, so she’s looking for her “knight in shining Dorito armor” who she thinks is “cool….ranch.”
  • A Family Dollar employee in Belfast said “the most beautiful girl ive ever seen” walked in to ask about a tablet charger. He’d “love to get together, maybe smoke a bowl and get a little tipsy.” I’d suggest coffee first.
  • Look at this dumb, fat rabbit named Rex. He’s a cute bun who gets excited when you feed or hold him and he’s free to a good home. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.