Peaceful protesters fill Capitol Square. They shout and chant before taking over the atrium of the Capitol building where they remain through the night.

Bahrain? Libya? Syria? Yemen?

No; Madison, Wis.

Governors across the country have been unveiling budget proposals designed to erase massive deficits.

The reaction in many states has been shock, dismay, anger and protest.

While Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s budget address last week upset some, it didn’t generate nearly as much outrage as the plans being rolled out in other states.

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LePage’s budget outline didn’t include any sweeping or across-the-board cuts to state programs or of state employees.

There has been far more drama elsewhere.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has laid out a variety of cuts as well as a 1 percent income-tax hike on high-earners.

But what really got attention was his plan to eliminate collective-bargaining rights for all state, county and local workers — including teachers.

In response, public employees seized the Budget Committee’s public hearing room to stage a “citizen filibuster” that lasted 17 hours. So many teachers in Madison schools called in sick that the district had to cancel classes.

Walker promised to call out the National Guard if state workers went on strike.

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By comparison, Maine’s governor last week praised the state’s work force and merely continued a hiring freeze. He did, however, propose changing the terms of the state’s retirement system for new employees while freezing and recapping cost-of-living increases for current retirees at a lower rate.

But, still, no major cuts of employees, their wages or bargaining rights.

Other governors are resorting to tax increases to close their budget gaps.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton would raise the state’s top income tax rate to 13.95 percent.

Dayton has also suggested a 3 percent surcharge on taxable income over $500,000 and wants a higher property tax bracket for homes valued at more than $1 million.

Talk about soaking the rich.

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LePage, meanwhile, proposed trimming Maine’s highest income-tax rate from 8.5 percent to 7.9.

Texas is cutting schools and human services. But the most controversial proposal involves releasing prison inmates who are old, infirm or dying.

The “geriatric” prison population, defined as those over 55, includes about 11,000 inmates,and their health care costs are breaking the budget.

Gov. LePage has hired a corrections commissioner from the private-prison industry but has otherwise left the system alone.

Many governors, including New Hampshire’s John Lynch, are cutting funding for local education.

LePage’s budget actually includes a modest increase for education.

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What happened to the chain-saw approach some feared LePage would take to state spending?

Perhaps Maine’s budget situation isn’t as dire as some other states.

Perhaps a truly significant amount of budget-cutting was done in the final two years of the John Baldacci administration and by the last Legislature.

Perhaps LePage is less of a dogmatic budget-slasher than many feared (or hoped) he would be.

Whatever the reason, it’s a relief to see Maine closing its budget gap without the “sturm und angst” of other states.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.


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