During a fiery news conference that lasted nearly an hour, Gov. Paul LePage pledged Friday to veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat until his opposition relents and accepts his constitutional amendment to eliminate Maine's income tax. LePage this year has proposed a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the state's income tax by the year 2020. Republicans, who have shied away from the governor's more comprehensive tax reform efforts, have rallied around the amendment. Democrats have opposed it, sparking LePage's trademark fury during a news conference at the Blaine House.
It's generally not up to governors to dictate what state legislators will work on and when, but that doesn't stop some governors from trying. Indeed, it occasionally even works -- a couple of years ago, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) told her state's legislature that she would veto everything it passed unless and until it approved Medicaid expansion
As the Bangor Daily News reported, Maine's notorious Republican governor, Paul LePage, is launching a similar gambit in the Pine Tree State, though on a very different issue.
The far-right governor, who won twice after the mainstream vote was split in three-way contests, is still willing to sign legislation sponsored by members of his party. It's just Democrats whose bills he's vowed to kill without regard for merit.
It's worth noting that Maine's state legislature is split -- there's a Democratic majority in the state House and a Republican majority in the state Senate.
As far as LePage is concerned, it's a simple calculus: Maine Democrats should no longer be allowed to write laws because they're blocking his plan to hold a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment scrapping the state income tax.
"The Maine people deserve to have a say in the income tax, and until they lift it, that's my leverage," he said Friday. "And, yes, is that politics? I'm playing their game. I am finally learning to play the game of the politician. And it's despicable what they are doing."
Well, that's certainly one way to look at it.
The other way is to note that LePage's plan to scrap the state income tax would replace lost revenue in the most regressive way possible -- primarily by counting on higher sales taxes -- shifting state tax burdens onto those who can least afford it.
Following the governor's tantrum, State House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D) described LePage as "angry," "unglued" and "unhinged," which under the circumstances, seemed quite fair.
Let's not forget, by the way, that this isn't LePage's first demand for redistributing wealth from the bottom up. In 2011, the Republican cut the top marginal rate for the wealthiest earners, and Maine's revenues still haven't fully recovered.