Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Everyone who wondered how Gov. Paul LePage would work with a Democratic-controlled Legislature got an early answer this week: He's not.
Instead of meeting with the new House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond on Tuesday, LePage manufactured a flimsy excuse and canceled the meeting.
LePage says he will not meet with Alfond or Eves until a Democratic Party "tracker" stops attending public events and taping the governor's speeches. The tracker doesn't work for either Alfond or Eves, and the perfectly legal taping, however annoying, has nothing to do with the serious budget and policy quagmires the state must face.
LePage did not retreat Wednesday when he used the occasion of swearing in new lawmakers to make a few cracks about the tracker, who he referred to as his "personal paparazzi."
The governor's harsh tone stood in sharp contrast to the gracious and bipartisan tone set by the new leaders in their first speeches.
"We must work together," Eves said. "Our problems are too big for one party to solve alone."
Alfond said there are people on both sides "spoiling for a fight between the Legislature and the Blaine House. ... You know what, let's disappoint them."
LePage could have accepted their challenge to see how much they were willing to cooperate. Instead, he rejected their olive branches before they could offer them.
This puts tremendous pressure on the new Republican leaders in the House and Senate, Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport and Sen. Mike Thibodeau of Winterport.
They will have to choose between working with the new Democratic majority or pleasing a chief executive who would rather fight than compromise. They will have to come to terms on a budget that will need two-thirds backing in the House and Senate, possibly even joining the Democrats to override a veto if LePage is not on board.
It's one thing if LePage won't talk, but there is too much at stake for Republican lawmakers to do the same.
Ultimately, both parties will be judged by voters based on what they can get done. Nobody wins if they fail.