On June 12, Democrat and Republican party members will vote for their respective candidates in the primary elections. The plurality “party” of Mainers, the unenrolled voters, will be on the sidelines, watching.
Eighteen days after these primary elections, the state’s fiscal year will end. The possibility exists that several major legislative bills will remain unreconciled. These are bills that will affect the majority of Mainers, no matter the political persuasion to which they adhere. Unfortunately, many legislators are running for office rather than focusing on their current jobs of doing the state’s business. This lack of commitment has consequences for all Mainers.
There appears to be no progress towards a special session of the Legislature to address the unfinished business of school funding, Medicaid expansion, tax conformity, health-care worker funding and major budget concerns — neither before the June 12 Primary, nor after.
House Speaker Sara Gideon, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Governor Paul LePage are the three principals in this pitched battle over principles. Lacking commitment to compromise, these three leaders have left legislators in the lurch, not fulfilling biennial legislative goals. School funding and tax conformity are no-brainers. It is irresponsible not resolve these immensely significant financial issues. Funding for county jails and health care workers also remain up in the air.
Will a special session of the Legislature be convened in Augusta before the June 30 budget deadline? Are there serious negotiations between the embattled House leaders? Can legislators be recalled with any degree of confidence they will accomplish the necessary work? No negotiated legislation can survive a two-thirds veto battle.
Of this three-legged stool, Governor LePage has the most to lose. The Governor has achieved much more than is generally acknowledged by media coverage during his seven-and-a-half-year tenure. He has been bold, aggressive and frequently undiplomatic, but also passionate about his work representing Mainers. His numerous achievements cannot be ignored.
Governor LePage has proven a cagey politician despite some impressions to the contrary. However, his lasting legacy may come down to his final budget and last legislative session. The Governor is not running for re-election. By outlining parameters for success, he can restore stability to the process.
Governor Le Page needs to take the high road by calling for a special session of the Legislature to complete its work. By modeling the spirit of negotiation and compromise, the Governor will earn a deserved reputation for being the right person in charge at this trying moment in the state’s history.