On Thursday, July 11, the Maine Heritage Policy Center held its annual Freedom & Opportunity Luncheon at the Portland Sheraton at Sable Oaks. The Center’s 2019 Award recipient was Peter Anastos, owner of Maine Course Hospitality Group. Anastos, who worked with Bruce Poliquin to reform Maine’s housing authority, delivered a brief and very direct speech in which he confessed to having been a Democrat for years. Then he read the works of Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate in economics, and saw the light.

Paul LePage was one of the featured speakers. Some people will remember that Paul used to be governor of our state. He’s still available for the dimmer Democrats to blame for anything, and everything, that goes wrong in Maine; for at least as long as Janet Mills occupies the Blaine House. As it happens he may be available to resume his gubernatorial duties after the next elections.

I’m in no way empowered to announce his plans but I can say that his speeches last week and at the earlier GOP rally in Augusta certainly suggest a readiness to resume the fight. No one is likely to contradict me if I describe him as slim, fit, and ready for a fight.

When he revealed the two prerequisites Anne LePage laid down for her support, I felt certain that he will be ready for electoral combat when the time comes. Readers don’t have to know what they are. It’s enough to know that he revealed them and that he will find them easy to meet.

The keynote address was delivered by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. He was chosen by the MHPC because the reforms he is implementing in his state have been pioneered in Maine and need extension here. The fact that the pollsters give Bevin the highest negative rating of any governor in the U.S. does not necessarily disqualify him from MHPC’s invitation.

Our former governor, who knows him well and esteems him highly, told me that Bevin’s high negatives should be seen as a badge of honor. State governments have expanded so widely and affect so many lives, that any serious reform is certain to upset a widening circle of citizens. There will always been many people who approve of reform in principle, but object to anything destabilizes their personal situation.

Kentucky’s “Red Tape Reduction” program has repealed or amended more than 1,200 state regulations, ending or rationalizing 27% of the state’s regulatory schemes. In 2016, under Bevin’s leadership, the Republicans launched a program called “Kentucky Trained. Kentucky Built,” to foster manufacturing excellence by expanding apprenticeship opportunities.

He expanded school choice by signing a bill that removed local obstacles to charter school authorization. This year Gov. Bevin signed a bill guaranteeing “constitutional carry” rights to the citizens, and another bill designed to ensure free expression in public education.

Bevin’s personal history is interesting. He served four years in the U.S. Army and after retiring with the rank of captain got a job with Waycross Partners, an investment management firm in Louisville. Building on his experience and successes with Waycross he founded Integrity Asset Management, which grew to handle more than $1 billion in investments.

Then he took over Connecticut’s Bevin Brothers Manufacturing company, founded in 1832 by his great-great-great grandfather. He turned the company around, paid its debts and set it on a stable financial basis as America’s pre-eminent manufacturer of bells.

Frustrated with what he viewed as unprincipled leadership in government, Bevin first ran for the Senate against a cunning and experienced professional politician, Mitch McConnell. Mitch ran a bare-knuckled campaign that kept the challenger under 40% of the vote. Mitch later forgave his senatorial rival and backed him for governor in 2015.

Bevin worked tirelessly for the whole Republican ticket and helped the party win control of both legislative houses for the first time. The Republican leadership’s 2020 priorities feature lowering individual and corporate income tax rates while expanding the tax base by adding items taxed in neighboring states to Kentucky’s tax base. The over-all objective is to move away from taxing production to taxing consumption. Pension reform will also require a major effort.

MHPC’s selection of Governor Bevin to give the keynote address provides Mainers with an illuminating series of comparisons and contrasts. While many Republicans, especially in the Senate, seemed to have decided that the achievements during LePage’s first term entitled them to take a break and concentrate on re-election, Kentucky’s Republicans seem intent on pushing on into dangerous political territory.

Maine’s Democrats seem intent on showing the nation how accelerated expansion of government power at the state level will produce all kinds of wonders and prodigies. Governor Bevin and his colleagues will offer a contrast. Read through the lists of bills Governor Mills has signed and you will see that some are designed to improve existing regulations, some new regulations can be useful but the total picture in one of government expansion with little interest in improving government performance.

Here’s a detail of some interest. Mr. and Mrs. Bevin have nine children, four of them adopted. Their original plan was to adopt a single Ethiopian child, but when they discovered he had three siblings, they decided to adopt the lot rather than breaking up the family.

Mr and Mrs. LePage can tell a story with some similarities. Their original intent was to adopt a child. This led them into a frustrating bureaucracy. A Jamaican woman who was involved in the adoption process proposed that the LePages dodge the bureaucratic complexities by adopting her adolescent son. They have not legally adopted Devon but raised him under their roof and helped him set a course for college, including graduate school.

John Frary of Farmington is a former candidate for U.S. Congress, a retired history professor, an emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of FraryHomeCompanion.com. He can be reached at jfrary8070

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