AUGUSTA— Gov. Paul LePage has wielded his veto pen more than any other Maine governor in recent history — and the session isn't over yet.
Throughout the contentious session, the Republican governor has spiked 57 bills the Democratic-led Legislature sent to his desk, recently surpassing former Independent Gov. James Longley, who previously held the record for single-session vetoes with 49 in 1977.
In a statement, LePage quoted former President Calvin Coolidge, who said, "It is better to block a bad law than sign a good one."
But LePage's extensive use of his veto power is "enormously unusual," said Brian Duff, a political science professor at the University of New England. The tea party-backed governor's strong political views are rare in a Maine governor, he said.
"We have a tendency to elect these sort of middle-of-the-road moderates — Democrat or Republican — and LePage is not like that at all," Duff said.
Before this session, Longley held the record as most prolific bill rejecter since 1975, according to Maine's Law and Legislative Reference Library. Veto statistics for earlier governors weren't immediately available.
LePage's predecessor, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, vetoed only a few bills each session. Independent Gov. Angus King vetoed just more than 40 bills throughout his eight years in office in the '90s.
"You can either use the veto as a scalpel or a sledgehammer. It's the governor's choice," said Herb Adams, an adjunct professor of history and political science at Southern Maine Community College and a former Democratic state representative from Portland.
LePage vetoes include high-profile bills like the $6.3 billion dollar budget and expansion of health coverage under the federal health care overhaul. He has also vetoed measures designed to encourage background checks on gun sales and to ban insurance companies from determining rates based on where someone lives.
One recently vetoed bill would have allowed health care professionals to give naloxone, used to counteract the effects of a drug overdose, to someone at risk for an overdose.
LePage said that the bill would not combat drug use and would merely provide "a false sense of security that abusers are somehow safe from overdose if they have a prescription nearby."
Spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor doesn't think all of the bills are ill-intentioned, but strongly believes in smaller government.
"This administration firmly believes the Legislature cannot continue to spend taxpayer dollars beyond its means and keep increasing taxes to pay for state spending," she wrote in an email.
"He really he vetoes with gusto because he believes in it in a profound way," Duff said. "He is incredibly passionate about his very conservative ideas, the role of government, and I think he is genuinely offended by the legislation he is vetoing."
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Tuesday for a day primarily dedicated to attempting to override the remainder of LePage's vetoes.
But many of his vetoes are likely to remain standing. With the backing of the Republican minority, nearly all of LePage's vetoes have been sustained by the Legislature.