April 4, 2011

MAINE COMPASS: Tired of diversions from 'government by disrespect'

BY SEN. ROGER KATZ, R-AUGUSTA, AND SEN. BRIAN LANGLEY, R-ELLSWORTH

As Republican senators, we all want Gov. LePage and his administration to succeed.

Yet we feel compelled to express our discomfort and dismay with the tone and spirit of some of the remarks he has made.

Were these isolated incidents, we would bite our collective tongues, because we are all human and make mistakes. But unfortunately, they are not isolated but frequent. Therefore, we feel we must speak out.

We ran for office as proud Republicans, inspired and energized by the campaign themes of the governor to make Maine a more business-friendly state and attract the capital investment we need to create jobs and ensure that our children and grandchildren will have the kind of opportunity and prosperity we all want for them.

We should be focused like a laser on the agenda the governor laid out -- reducing our tax burden, getting rid of unnecessary government regulation that stifles innovation and entrepreneurship, and putting into place thoughtful welfare reform.

Instead, we find ourselves continually diverted, responding to yet another example of our chief executive picking a personal fight not worth fighting. "Government by disrespect" should have no place in Augusta, and when it happens, we should all reject it.

People sent us here to work together -- to find common ground whenever we can. But there can, will and should be those occasions when our honestly held positions lead us to disagree and to vigorously debate the issues of the day.

It is how we manage that conflict that matters, and how you do something is often as important as what you do.

Last week, the subject was the artwork in the Department of Labor. One could argue that the chief executive's position was right or wrong.

But for him to announce that he would "laugh at the idiots" should they choose to engage in our honored tradition of civil disobedience is another personal attack that only serves to further lower the bar of our public discourse. We may disagree with civil disobedience in this particular instance, but it is a fundamental right each and every one of us might engage in if we found the issue important enough.

Belittling comments, whether they come from the governor or his opponents, have no place in Maine public life. By demeaning others, the governor also discourages people from taking part in debating the issues of the day -- worrying if not only their ideas, but they themselves as people, will be the subject of scorn.

The issue of the day behind the artwork removal is a legitimate disagreement between the governor and labor. When running for office, some of us did not have the support of organized labor. We may find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue or vote, but we are all working to achieve what we feel is best for our great state. We are not the enemy of labor and labor is certainly not an enemy to us.

As senators, we observe that our president, Kevin Raye, travels home each weekend to Washington County, where he and his wife work long hours running their third-generation family business.

We recognize that there are Washington County folks with good jobs due to their entrepreneurship.

We also watch our friend and colleague from the other side of the aisle, Sen. John Patrick, return home to Oxford County where he works the third shift, often until 3 a.m., in the Rumford mill. We recognize his dedication as he returns to Augusta, often after little rest.

They sometimes disagree, but both of them -- businessman and union leader -- respect each other and treat each other accordingly.

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