LePage calls Legislature ‘the laziest bunch I have ever seen’

Don’t expect Gov. Paul LePage to step in as a peacemaker as negotiations over Maine’s next two-year budget — which must be in place by July 1 to avoid a government shutdown — reach critical mass.

During a Tuesday morning radio appearance on WVOM, the Republican governor distanced himself from the budget talks, but not before spraying some vinegar on the situation.

LePage cast the Legislature as inexperienced and lazy, and said he won’t be rushed to act on the at least $6.8 billion state biennial budget bill that dominates attention right now at the State House.

LePage’s latest barbs at the Legislature, echo statements he’s made many times during his stint as governor and come as little surprise as lawmakers have reached an impasse on the budget bill that is headed toward an 11th-hour conference committee negotiation.

“They’ve been given a very good budget. … They’ve been sitting on their hands since January and shame on them,” said LePage of his own budget proposal. He suggested that lawmakers are also enacting other bills that they haven’t fully researched.

“This is the laziest bunch I have ever seen in my life in this Legislature,” he said. “They are not doing any work. In some cases it’s because they don’t know what to do. … I’m really ashamed to be a part of this government.”

With lawmakers saying they’re focused on sending LePage a budget in time to give him his constitutional 10 days to act on it, LePage suggested he doesn’t care how late the budget comes to his desk. He is widely expected to veto the budget — it’s virtually a guarantee — and said Tuesday that is a certainty if the spending tops $7 billion. His budget plan tallied around $6.8 billion.

“If they cross into the $7 billion range they get a veto and I don’t care if it’s July 1 or July 15,” he said. “They’ve had six months, sat on their hands and now they want to put a gun to my head. Sorry, guys. If they’re not going to do their job, I’m going to do mine.”

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, declined comment. However, veto talk is basically irrelevant at this juncture in the process, as any budget bill will have to clear both chambers with two-thirds majorities — the threshold to override a veto — to be enacted as an emergency measure.

LePage said he’s so frustrated with the Legislature that he favors a change to the Maine Constitution that would require the Legislature to make the initial budget proposal, rather than the governor.

LePage also lamented how few lawmakers are willing to work with him. He criticized Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, saying that he “hasn’t spoken to me in years.”

LePage praised House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, as well as two Democrats: Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, a member of the budget committee who has proposed rejecting the committee’s recommendations rather than forward unwinnable proposals, and Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham.

“Those guys are really showing some leadership,” LePage said. — Christopher Cousins

There’s an election today — yes, today

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is projecting between 10 percent and 15 percent turnout for today’s election where there’s just one thing on the statewide ballot — a $50 million research and development bond for the University of Maine and technology companies.

It’s uncontroversial and virtually assured to pass. LePage, who has fought often with lawmakers about authorizing voter-approved bonds, supports it, saying Tuesday morning that he envisions it as the first phase of a two-step process that would be completed in November with a second bond aimed at commercializing positive results of research and development.

There are a lot of important local questions as well. Check with your town office or city hall to get up to speed on local elections, find your polling place with this Bangor Daily News widget and stick with the BDN for the results you need. — Michael Shepherd with Robert Long

Quick hits

  • Maine’s U.S. senators will be back in the national glow on Tuesday when they question Attorney General Jeff Sessions. President Donald Trump’s attorney general will testify in an open session this afternoon before the Senate intelligence committee and is expected to discuss his role in the May firing of FBI Director James Comey after Sessions recused himself from probes into Russian influence on the 2016 election. Maine’s senators — Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King — are both on the panel. King, who caucuses with Democrats, told “CBS This Morning” yesterday that he wants to press Sessions on his contact with Russia during Trump’s campaign and his role in Comey’s firing. — Michael Shepherd
  • LePage vetoed nine more bills since Friday. Here’s his soundtrack. Among the vetoed bills are ones that would implement new truancy laws for students between ages 5 and 7, ban tanning bed use for people under age 18, exempt civic, religious or fraternal organizations from collecting sales taxes for food sales for up to 24 days a year, require executive branch employees to appear and testify to legislative committees and open wind power developments’ impact on scenery to more review. For those of you who just can’t get enough, LePage also vetoed LDs 374, 412, 983, and 1191. You can look up his veto letters here. — Christopher Cousins

Today in A-town

The day will start with several veto override votes in both chambers, which you just read about above. The House convenes around noon today for a calendar that will have stretches of humming through bills and tiptoeing through debates and the Senate has a heavier calendar.

The Republican-led upper chamber is expected to pass their two-year budget proposal along party lines on Tuesday, putting them in non-agreement with Democrats who did the same with their proposal in the House on Monday. That will send it to a six-member conference committee.

There are also a number of newsworthy bills scheduled for votes in both chambers, but many are tracking to die, including 18 bills that got divided reports, ensnaring a Democratic proposal to bar service privatization in state jails and psychiatric hospitals and Republican-led bids to limit minimum wage increases and criminalize female genital mutilation.

But all of this is subject to change. With only eight days to go in the scheduled legislative session, leaders will call many audibles on the chamber floors. We’ll watch the big moves so you don’t have to. — Michael Shepherd with Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Rhetoric from people paid to invent it

Periodically, we here at the Daily Brief just can’t help ourselves. After a certain number of ridiculous email subject lines, we have to have some fun. Here are a few from the past week:

“Are you paying attention?” That’s a subject line from the Washington Post. If you’re not paying attention, you can pay money, just 99 cents for the next month and $9.99 thereafter. Those memory pills people are in trouble.

“Read now (important)” I bit. The email says Jon Ossoff is locked in a “DEAD HEAT.” In Georgia. And that I should donate $5, which can be “wired to the Ossoff campaign overnight.” I thought the whole point of wire transfers was that they’re instantaneous?

“Kiss all hope goodbye.” Another email about Jon Ossoff. I didn’t read deep enough to see if my $5 was for kissing hope goodbye or welcoming it. I should probably Google Jon Ossoff.

“Fools Fear the Truth.” I swear I am not making this up. The email body from Project Vote Smart reads, in its entirety: “Once fooled, people remain fooled because nothing is more avoidable than the moment in an argument when you recognize you are wrong.” I think I was already a fool before becoming a fool, but I’m not positive.

“Obamacare GONE.” This one has come to my inbox every few days for months but I read the papers and I know it’s not true. Not yet.

“Help your pet with his emergency plan.” That’s from Maine Emergency Management Agency. Some say you can train cats but I don’t think mine could hang the emergency ladder from our balcony. He has no opposable thumbs.

“What about exotic pets?” Thanks again, MEMA, but I don’t think my pangolin can do it either.

“Jon Ossoff WINS.” That email showed up June 10 but I just Googled the guy and that election isn’t until June 20. #fakenews

“Jon Ossoff: ‘sadly’” Don’t give up yet, Jon! The election isn’t for another week!

“The Democrats playbook is to resist and obstruct.” That’s how it works, especially when it comes to you, Republican National Committee.

“Maine Whoopie Pie Festival wants to know: What’s your favorite whoopie?” Raspberry cream. Stupid question.

“Ossoff COMEBACK.” Is anyone seriously voting for this guy? Here’s his soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

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.