AUGUSTA — Probably the only thing liberal about Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been his use of the veto pen, but state lawmakers continue to rebuff him, voting time and again to overturn vetoes in recent weeks.

In 47 minutes on Friday, the Republican-controlled state Senate took 128 votes, each one overturning, by broad margins, LePage’s line-item vetoes in a $6.7 billion state budget passed by  the Legislature on Tuesday.

Friday’s results will undoubtedly give LePage hands-down claim to the title of most-overridden governor in state history.

The steady rejection of LePage’s vetoes, including not only the line items on the budget but also a plethora of other bills, is signal to some that LePage’s political power is rapidly diminishing.

Many of LePage’s recent veto messages said simply that he was vetoing the bill because it was sponsored by a Democrat. LePage said he was doing so because lawmakers were refusing to send to voters a ballot question asking them to eliminate the state income tax.  

He said Wednesday he was going to line-item veto the budget bill before vetoing the entire spending package because he wanted to waste the legislators’ time.


Some lawmakers said LePage’s veto tactics, along with his antics earlier in the week involving an artificial Christmas tree and a set of toy pigs, had backfired.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said that lawmakers both Republican and Democrat had grown weary and bored with LePage’s shtick and “people couldn’t vote fast enough” to overturn his vetoes.

“The fact that he appears to be increasingly angry and lashing out at both Democrats and Republicans and has really taken it to a personal level is very different,” McCabe said. “He has separated out the politics and now his attacks are personal and professional.”

McCabe said LePage’s actions were costing him agenda items on which Republicans might otherwise have stood shoulder to shoulder with their governor.

“The overwhelming amount of vetoes has cheapened his veto power and most of his vetoes are related to threats,” McCabe said. “He’s saying he’s going to veto all bills now because Democrats’ bills are hidden in Republican bills, so that was a strange comment.”

LePage’s actions seemed to be giving lawmakers a common rallying point, said Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, a frequent target of LePage’s criticism.


In late May, LePage said Alfond should be placed in a “playpen.”

Alfond said Friday of LePage: “In some wonderful way, he’s creating even more bipartisanship in Augusta, which was probably not the prediction when people sent us here in divided government.” 

Following the rapid votes to overturn the line-item budget vetoes in the Senate on Friday, Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, said part of the message to LePage from the Legislature was that they were tired and wanted to stand by their budget as they passed it.

“But I also think the residual mud-slinging and name-calling didn’t help (the governor),” Patrick said.

Leading Republicans were more reserved in their criticisms of LePage, saying they had no control over what he said or did.

“The governor has to make up his mind what he thinks he ought to do and that’s what he’s apparently decided to do,” said Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport.


Thibodeau acknowledged that the override votes in the Senate on Friday were broad bipartisan decisions with all but six or seven of the 20-member Republican majority joining Democrats.

Thibodeau said he stood by the budget the Legislature passed because he gave his word on it, not to spite LePage.

“For me, I was sitting at the table and I shook hands on the deal,” Thibodeau said. “It would be like going to the car dealer and paying $20,000 for a new car and going the next morning to pick it up and the taillights are missing. We shook hands on a deal that was the total package and I felt obligated to support that package.”

Thibodeau said Republicans voting against LePage’s vetoes wasn’t necessarily an indication they had grown weary of his antics. 

“The governor wasn’t there, and didn’t sign off on the deal, so he is expressing his dissatisfaction with the deal that was struck and you have to respect that,” Thibodeau said.

He dismissed LePage’s criticism of how top legislative leaders ended up striking that budget deal during closed-door meetings, the details of which were largely kept secret from most lawmakers, the press and the public.


“The fact of the matter is that every media outlet in the state knew we were meeting to hammer out a deal so we didn’t end up in a state-government shutdown,” Thibodeau said. “We were very transparent in that.”

However, he said, when legislative leaders announced they had a budget deal, they should release the details. He apologized for that and said everyone involved recognized in hindsight it was a mistake.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, who Alfond said served as LePage’s top negotiator on the budget, was even more protective of LePage’s recent actions.

“Sometimes the media, I think, likes to play up this, ‘the governor versus the Legislature’ (theme), and the governor does a nice job doing this thing of, ‘the governor versus the Legislature,'” Fredette said. “But we live in a democracy where there is supposed to be debate and passion on different sides of the issue.”

Fredette said that despite any of LePage’s decisions or actions, House Republicans still share many values with LePage.

“I think, quite frankly, that the governor has been trying to move the needle on changing the trajectory of what’s been going on in our state for the last four decades,” Fredette said. “And anytime you try to create change like that it’s extremely tough, particularly when it is not something you can do by yourself.”

What’s next:

Lawmakers will return to the State House on Monday, when they are expected to continue their work on a variety of bills, including 21 new vetoes issued by LePage late Friday afternoon.

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