Less than three months ago I wrote this in a piece I posted here: "Governor LePage seems not to understand, or not to care, that gaining support of 38% of the electorate does not give him a mandate to do as he pleases and that he is the governor, not a democratically elected dictator." Well, it turns out I was wrong.
Recent events have demonstrated that apparently Governor LePage CAN do as he pleases, because legislators, at least Republican legislators, do not possess the political will to oppose him. The Governator has vetoed numerous bills passed by the legislature, some by margins that were far larger then would be required to override a veto, and yet just one was actually enacted over his veto. The latest, and most egregious to my mind, example of this involves the recent budget bill which was passed by huge margins in both the House and the Senate, despite much blustering and threatening by Mr. LePage. The bill was, by all accounts, a reasonable resolution to the State's budget crisis which was passed by a large majority, including a majority in LePage's own party. Final enactment was all but assured even if a veto was forthcoming.
Governor LePage didn't veto the entire bill but he did use his line-item veto authority, something NO governor of Maine has ever done before despite the authority being on the books for years, to veto specific provisions pertaining to the funding of welfare services. The provisions he vetoed were fully considered and debated in the legislature, and what resulted was a bi-partisan plan that most agreed was fair and reasonable in all respects. Had the legislature voted on the line-item vetoes they would have easily been overridden as only a simple majority is required and the whole budget passed by a far greater margin.
But the legislature did NOT vote on the line item vetoes. They were in recess at the time the vetoes were issued and the Republican leadership declined to call them back into session to consider the matter. So the vetoes stand and crucial provisions for funding welfare services go down the drain because - well, to be honest I don't know why. But apparently Governor LePage CAN do as he pleases because the legislative leadership has abdicated their responsibility to stand up to a chief executive who clearly does not represent the interests of a majority of Maine voters.
It is an election year after all, and I suspect that the Republican leadership did not want to alienate their (38%) base by taking a public vote in opposition to the governor - apparently they were for the budget before they were against it. Democratic legislators are understandably upset to see key provisions of the budget they helped pass get thrown out by executive fiat, without even being given the chance to vote on an override.
So my earlier prediction of bi-partisan governance in defiance of the unpopular and extreme policies of Governor LePage were wrong. Apparently political bullying works when legislators are more concerned about their own re-election prospects than what is truly in the interest of the people of Maine. Now that really is a sad state of affairs.