By Rep. Brian Hubbell
Many of my friends and neighbors have contacted me over the past few days with concern about Governor Paul LePage’s recent vendetta threatening the funding of a charter school and ill-tempered remarks suggesting shooting a cartoonist and the execution of legislators.
Most of those contacts advocated that the Legislature respond with decisive action against the governor, including censure and impeachment.
Here are my current thoughts as I sit here on Sunday evening pondering what needs to happen in the week ahead.
As frustrating and challenging as I find the governor, I understand him to be, like winter weather, an unavoidable part of our state’s political geography for the current legislative session. At times, we need to reef sail; at times, we need to seek sheltered anchorage; and at times, we need to lay on the canvas and bolt downwind on the gale before the barometer drops even farther.
Given that in 2014 the citizens of Maine elected a divided state government, I believe my primary responsibility as your representative is to work diligently to seek the best possible policy compromises that still square with my conscience in order to achieve the long-term greatest good.
In that role, I have found and shared some significant success with legislation this session – as have many other legislators who have focused on the territory of the possible rather than the rhetorical. My experience confirms that, irrespective of party, most legislators work earnestly under trying conditions to navigate by these same lights.
But by far the greatest challenge that we have faced is the negotiation of the next two-year state budget which needed to become law by Wednesday in order to avoid the catastrophe of a state shutdown.
Please understand that some factions would love nothing more than the chaos that would ensue from the failure of this negotiation. The emergency of a state shutdown would significantly expand the unilateral powers of the governor, and some cheer that prospect.
Because of this, along with a majority of legislators of both parties, I am convinced that our highest obligation over the next few days is to carry the next budget into law over the increasingly livid objections of this governor.
Against great odds, Democratic House Speaker Eves and Republican Senate President Thibodeau jointly have piloted this budget compromise through many shoals with remarkable leadership and diplomacy. So far, the governor’s anger at this collaboration has served more to unite the Legislature than to divide. Credit both caucuses in both bodies for cohering not only to enact a budget but also to overturn an historic number of this governor’s capricious vetoes.
As this has played out, this governor only has increasingly marginalized his ability to effect policy. The escalating antagonism is little more than an expression of his consequent frustration.
As I see it, as your representatives, our sober responsibility is to maintain our collected unity of purpose until this budget becomes law and this session’s final veto is overridden.
Once that concludes, I anticipate that the Legislature will measure its options in relation to the chief executive and consult on appropriate legal and legislative processes.
Over these critical final days and weeks, I expect additional rhetorical ordnance will be lobbed at the third floor of the state house. I also expect us and the state to weather those distractions and carry forward, as Maine people deserve, with civility and prudence under the established rules of process.
Written with gratitude for your continuing support and confidence.
Representative Brian Hubbell serves Maine House District 135, which is comprised of Bar Harbor, Mount Desert and Lamoine.