LePage vetoes raise questions about role of government

AP file photo

“I bought several veto pens and I’m not afraid to use them … but my pens are starting to run low on ink,” said Gov. Paul Lepage. He has racked up a record-breaking 163 vetoes during his first term.

Our View: Veto overrides best for public health, access

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage’s use of the veto pen will make for a busy day for lawmakers on Thursday, reigniting a debate about whether the governor’s endgame judgment of bills is obstructionism or leadership.

LePage has racked up a record-breaking 163 vetoes during his first term, including 30 so far that will go to the Legislature on Thursday to be either sustained or overridden. The governor is widely expected to issue more vetoes Tuesday and Wednesday, which according to comments he made over the weekend at the Republican State Convention is a point of pride.

“When I leave here today and go back to Augusta, I’ve got a stack of bills to look at and read before Monday morning, because the deadline for vetoes is coming up,” said LePage to the convention attendees on Saturday. “I bought several veto pens and I’m not afraid to use them … but my pens are starting to run low on ink.”

Democrats and their allies have assailed LePage continually for his vetoes. House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said Monday that LePage’s opposition to some bills — which at times have had support from all 186 members of the Legislature — unravels weeks, months or, in some cases, years of difficult bipartisan compromise. LePage’s veto of a more than $30 million supplemental budget bill, which was enacted with the support of all but eight lawmakers, is a prime example.

“I’ve learned not to be shocked by very much, but [sustaining the budget veto] would be a train wreck and I think Republicans realize that,” said Berry. “A positive observation here is that the Legislature has in the last two years shown its ability to work together when the governor abdicates his responsibilities to create bipartisan budget bills and other bills that are of crucial importance to the economy.”

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said LePage’s prodigious use of vetoes says more about Democrats using their majority to enact bills they know the governor won’t support than it does about any obstructionism by the governor.

“With a conservative governor and an activist liberal majority in the Legislature committed to unseating him this year, we’re bound to get a lot of political ‘trap bills’ that represent bad public policy but yet go well in a campaign ad,” said Fredette in a written response to questions from the BDN. “Democratic politicians who say the governor should have worked with the Legislature on some of these bills to prevent a veto are being completely disingenuous. The Democrats care little what their Republican colleagues in the Legislature think, let alone what the governor thinks.”

However, Fredette said he doesn’t expect Republicans to sustain every veto, most notably the budget bill, which includes new funding for nursing homes and the reduction of waiting lists for developmentally disabled people awaiting services. LePage, who was the first governor in recent Maine history to sit out the development of a supplemental budget, said he opposes the bill because that money won’t start flowing soon enough and because of another provision that aims to close $20 million of the revenue gap by permanently pushing back the schedule of Medicaid payments to hospitals and other providers by up to 12 days.

“I will be voting to support the budget because although I share the governor’s concerns about the funding mechanism, Republicans scored a major win for Mainers by ensuring that Medicaid expansion funds for able-bodied adults will be used instead to help nursing homes and the disabled,” said Fredette.

There are other important and long-debated bills at risk of failure because of LePage vetoes, including teacher evaluation rules, a rejection of large-scale metallic mineral mining rules and a measure to expand Medicaid coverage of family planning services. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said LePage’s veto of the family planning bill would be disastrous for more than 13,000 low-income women who earn less than $23,000 a year in a household of one and need cancer screenings, testing and treatment for STDs and other services. LePage said he opposed it because most of the women it would serve already can acquire those services by signing up for health insurance under the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Gov. Paul LePage put his own personal beliefs over women’s health when he vetoed this important measure,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Rep. Jane Pringle, D-Windham, who sponsored the bill, said LePage’s veto ignores the fact that the federal government would bring in $9 of federal money for every $1 spent by the state.

“This measure would more than pay for itself and would help the state see significant savings,” said Pringle in a written statement.

Some Democrats are worried about new vetoes that could come Tuesday or Wednesday. Rep. Tim Marks, D-Pittston, has been working on a bill since last year that makes significant changes to the state’s concealed weapon permit system. Overhauling the state’s concealed weapons permit system has been one of the seminal issues of the 126th Legislature.

The bill, which among other things would standardize the permits, create a central database and increase the role of county sheriffs in issuing the permits, passed through both chambers of the Legislature along mostly party lines. LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett would not comment on LePage’s thoughts on the bill because his veto deadline isn’t until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

LePage has long been resistant to concealed weapons permit bills because he believes in so-called constitutional carry, which would allow the possession of firearms — concealed or otherwise — without a permit.

Marks, a retired state trooper, said he agrees with LePage on that front and that his bill would increase the number of states where Maine-issued permits are valid.

“I totally support constitutional carry and supported it last year, but that’s not going to work here in Maine, so this is a good second option,” said Marks. “I really hopes he signs the bill.”

Well-known conservative activist Mary Adams said during the weekend GOP convention that Maine should be grateful for LePage’s use of the veto.

“This session had just two things going for it, our Republican governor who used its veto pen and a Republican Senate with enough power to sustain his vetoes,” she said.

Fredette agreed.

“The vetoes boil down to a fundamental disagreement about the role of government in our lives. … The high number of vetoes is not a bad thing; it’s just a product of our fundamentally different visions for Maine’s future,” said Fredette.

Berry doesn’t buy it and repeated what he and other Democrats have been saying about LePage for years.

“The governor with these vetoes has really shown an astonishing new level of extremism and poor leadership,” he said. “The good news is that I think this is a CEO whose own people are increasingly seeking some distance from him. It’s hard to defend this kind of incompetence and extremism.”

The House and Senate, which need two-thirds majority votes to override a veto, convene on Thursday. Watch www.bangordailynews.com for more veto coverage.

Bangor Daily News staff writer Mario Moretto contributed to this report.

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Comments

So let me get this

So let me get this straight...
Governor who was rejected by nearly two thirds of the state's voters vetoes bills that werw approved by overwhelming and sometimes unanimous bipartisan majorities. Majorities who were in fact elected by the majorities in their districts, meaning they received more support in their districts than the Governor did.
How is this serving "the will of the people"? Looks a lot like *thwarting* the will of the people to me. I can understand it when he is basically supoorting his side in a party line vote, but when it's a clearly bipartisan measure? He's just being petty.

rob washburn's picture

We can't handle 4 more years

We can't handle 4 more years of minority rule. Please Elliot Cutler drop out of the race so that LePage is crushed at election time and the emboldened Republicans go home with their tails between their legs.

rob washburn's picture

We can't handle 4 more years

We can't handle 4 more years of minority rule. Please Elliot Cutler drop out of the race so that LePage is crushed at election time and the emboldened Republicans go home with their tails between their legs.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The choke hold

When you have politicians catering to minority support who are trying to shove their minority agenda down the throats of majority opinion this is what you get. I think screwed is the word. A majority of Maine citizens favor registering guns, accepting the Medicaid expansion, transparency in government, judicious spending as opposed to a hatchet approach, fairness in our taxation and yet we have Republicans doing the exact opposite. They are the Dutch boy with their finger in the dyke. Maine citizens are used to government that works for us. Their chokehold will only last for so long before the smell of corruption from out of state organizations that have no interest in our welfare turns everybody off. Anybody who thinks those think tanks in Texas and Virginia and North Carolina want to make Mainers happier and more prosperous is deluded. And yet this is who sustains our Republican legislators. Somebody needs to tell them that Carl Rove does not love Maine.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I would love to hear.............

I would love to hear how the average Republican can justify the many thousands of dollars being spent by the Governor to fight a miniscule problem that even then he's not even going after the right culprits in all of this. The bigger savings would be in the Medicaid Providers. The largest chunk of money recovered so far has come from over billing fraudulent billing, much bigger amounts of money as apposed to the few welfare cheats on the street. All this publicity is nothing more than political campaigning at the expense of the tax payer, again. This governor has wasted more money in the fight on fraud than will ever be saved as a result of these phony programs.
The real amazement here is his die hard followers. How can they not see what it is he's doing. Or better yet what he's not doing. His only claim to fame so far is holding the record for the most vetoes by a sitting Governor in Maine. That alone represents millions of dollars of hard work in the Legislature and is just dumped by the Governor for some extremely lame reasons. Please don't allow this idiot another four years, the State can not withstand all the savings....................

rob washburn's picture

Fredette is a LePage lacky

Fredette is a LePage lacky and should be voted out of office as well. REPUBLICAN leaders are worse than they have EVER been. The GOP has been corrupted by rich corporations who are lining their campaign treasuries while everyone else is pushed aside. I used to be a Republican, but they aren't even close to the Party they used to be. Now they work 24/7 helping the super rich get super richer and to hell with everyone else. Their campaign against the poor would be laughable if it wasn't so immoral.. Never mind that they only allege much fraud is going on without proving it. The GOP hope that cutting ALL the poor will at least sweep up the very few cheats. Let the chips fall as they may. The elderly, children and veterans get caught in their lazy plan to deal with a small problem. Instead of targeting the few cheats, they justify cutting everyone. OH well, at least the rich can go on paying at the same income tax rates as someone making only $20,000 per year. And LEPAGE and the GOP will make sure illegal tax havens are still OK for the rich at a cost of lost revenue of $10 million per year, much more than the cost of fraud by poor people. LePage and the GOP are absolutely disgusting!

rob washburn's picture

LEPAGE IS THE WORSE GOVERNOR

LEPAGE IS THE WORSE GOVERNOR IN MAINE HISTORY. He only cares about the rich, cares nothing about the poor, nor the environment. Anyone supporting him should be boycotted and scorned!!!!!

AL PELLETIER's picture

Total hypocricy!

LePage has made curbing welfare fraud his number one priority to save the state money.
How much money have we taxpayers spent these past 31/2 years to fund a totally ineffective legislature, crippled by vetoes, and a dysfunctional executive who knows only how to veto?.
Think about the administrative cost alone to write, rewrite and rewrite again all the bills that have found their way to the governors desk then are sent back to the legislature?
Welfare fraud is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the wasted money our inefficient government has cost us under LePage's watch.

RONALD RIML's picture

With "Constitutional Carry" one can simply make withdrawals

from whatever business or citizen one gets the drop on......

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