Maine runs on a biennial budget; the current one ends on 30 June 2013. Last week Gov. Paul LePage, a Tea Party Republican, announced that projections show that the State is short $35 million, and that he is contemplating curtailing spending to keep the budget balanced. This would involve across the board cuts to all State agencies, proportional to their size.
This news came just days after Maine Democrats recaptured both chambers of the Maine Legislature, which will begin work in earnest just after the new year begins. Any supplemental budget bill to address the $35 million shortfall would be one of the first items on the new legislature's calender.
To that end, a meeting was scheduled for this morning between Gov. LePage and the newly minted legislative leaders, from both parties.
That is, until Gov. LePage abruptly announced at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast early this morning that he was cancelling the meeting, because he's upset that there is a tracker at most of his pubic events:
Governor Paul R. LePage released the following statement today, challenging Democrats to start working together for Maine people by calling off their hired political operative who has been intrusively tracking the Governor on a hand-held videocamera at all public events, including domestic violence awareness rallies, Blaine House food drives and visits to veterans homes:Like them or not, trackers are a part of the political landscape now. And for a politician like LePage, they are really a requirement - this is the man that has told the NAACP to "kiss his butt", that women concerned about environmental contaminants can "grow little beards"; that eagle nests can be moved because "eagles don't pay taxes"; etc.
“For several months now, the Maine Democratic Party has hired a political cameraman to follow me wherever I go. I have not made an issue about this practice nor did it bother me until Veterans Day. On that day, I had the privilege to speak with an elderly Maine Veteran whose health is deteriorating. There was no need to have filmed this private discussion for political purposes.
"The people of Maine are not props and I will not allow these special interest groups to use them to score political points.
"Today, I was scheduled to return to Augusta from an event the so-called 'tracker' attended and meet with Democrat leadership about putting politics aside and working together for all Mainers. However, until the Democratic leadership calls on its party organization to remove the 'tracker,' I will not have that meeting.
"If Democrats truly want to work together, they will publicly call for an end to this distasteful practice. Actions speak louder than words."
LePage is one of the poster boys for tracking.
For their part, the Maine Democrats issued the following statement:
Governor LePage promised us the most open and transparent Government in Maine's history and yet here he is, publicly attacking a man for video taping his events. What does he have to hide? If LePage has a problem with his public events being taped or recorded, perhaps he should rethink his role in Government. For now though, our tracker will continue doing his job. This Governor doesn't get a free pass to say things in private, while saying something different in public. Does anyone after two years of this administration really believe there isn't a good case for recording the Governor's public statements?The 126th Maine Legislature will be sworn in tomorrow, 5 December. Both the new Senate President, Justin Alfond, and new Speaker of the House, Mark Eves, have expressed a genuine interest in working with Gov. LePage. The both had statements regarding the cancellation:
Speaker-Elect Eves: We’re disappointed to see the governor take this approach. We have very serious fiscal challenges before us and we were looking forward to meeting with the governor to get to work. The problems we face are too big for one party to solve alone.It looks like it's going to be a long next two years.
Senate President-elect Alfond: We continue to stand ready to work with the governor. We have to put party politics aside if we are going to get to work on strengthening our economy and rebuilding our middle class. The task is too great to be squandered by fighting before we even get started.