Thursday, March 14, 2013


Say what you want about Maine Governor Paul LePage (and it seems everybody has a lot to say about him) but you have to give him this: the man knows how to get his way in a dispute with the legislature, even when the Democrats control both houses.

A while ago Mr. LePage apparently decided that his top fiscal priority was to immediately repay a debt of several hundred million dollars owed to Maine hospitals, and he proposed a bill to accomplish this in one fell-swoop with funding to be provided by new debt (bonds) to be repaid from the proceeds of a new liquor-distribution contract which has yet to be negotiated. Then, and here comes the good part, he announced that he would not sign any new bills coming out of the legislature until his bill was passed. Nothing whatsoever gets done until the governor gets his way. Most chief executives could not hope to pull off such a brazen stunt, especially with the legislature firmly in the hands of the other party, but Governor LePage has spent the first two years of his administration that he is fully capable of standing by his threat, so his top priority instantly became the legislature's number one issue, too.

Democrats protested mightily of course as they had their own list of priorities and repaying the hospital debt wasn't first on the list.  The governor, predictably, stood firm in his resolve and used every opportunity to convey his message, nothing gets done until the hospitals get paid.  This steadfast resolve ultimately allowed him to frame the issue totally on his terms and left the legislature with no alternative but to agree to the concept of repaying the debt, with only the means of funding the payment remaining at issue.  I'm sure the governor was very pleased - with the result and with himself.  His tactic, which was classic bullying behavior, had worked very nicely - I suspect even Mr. LePage might have been surprised at how easy it was to get his way.

Is there any way we can get President Obama to adopt this technique to get legislation through Congress? Can you imagine the howls from "conservatives" if he ever tried a similar tactic?  Come to think of it, the strategy wouldn't work in Washington because Congress doesn't pass any bills anyway, and Republicans would love nothing more that to be able to point to the president and say it's all his fault that nothing gets done. So never mind.

I should close by reporting a happy ending, of sorts, to the saga.  The governor was so pleased that Democrats came around to his way of thinking on paying the hospitals that he agreed to sign an "emergency" bill passed by the legislature today to permit bars to open early on St. Patrick's Day. See, he can be reasonable when he gets his way. With any luck at all we'll all be able to sing this song by 7:00am this Sunday (without the "emergency" legislation we would have to wait until 9:00am before we could start drinking - how sad is that?):

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