6/14/18, Maine First Media Staff Report,
If politicians want to understand why Mainers view Augusta as a swamp, they need look no further than the latest development in the ongoing budgetary battles.
Governing should be a relatively easy process to understand. A bill is proposed, there are hearings and debate, and then it’s voted on.
Instead, backroom deals are hatched at the Coliseum on the Kennebec, where various unrelated bills are bundled together, special pork projects are added to the mix, and devious poison pills are inserted into the complicated mess.
This session and in the weeks following the session’s end, Maine House Republicans — led by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette — had taken a strong, principled, populist stand against how business is conducted at the Swamp. They appeared to be remaining firmly in the camp of draining the swamp amidst an onslaught of slander from the lying, dying Fake News outlets and smears of “terrorists” from Democrat “leadership.”
That is, until this week when Mainers witnessed yet another example of Republicans snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The principled stand for clean government and conservative-populist policies took a back seat to caving into Leftist demands while receiving little in return. Fighting for straight and smooth up and down votes turned to crickets — leaving constituents scratching their heads and wondering what is in the water at the Statehouse that turns legislators into swamp critters.
Less than one month ago, Minority House Leader, Ken Fredette spoke of all the hard work the House GOP put into getting Maine’s fiscal house in order. They’ve worked to replenish the empty rainy day fund with $200-Million. They’ve paid off the full $750-Million debt the state owed hospitals. They’ve enacted policies reducing Maine unemployment to historically low levels. They’ve spearheaded three successful tax cuts. And they’ve cut the number of Mainers on medical welfare by 20%.
Meanwhile, Rep. Fredette was standing firm that the GOP demanded straight up-or-down votes on individual bills supported by Maine House Republicans including funding for wage increases for direct-care workers, nursing homes, jails and tax reform. From his piece in the Portland Press Herald May, 18th:
“House Republicans are ready to get back to work…Simply show us the bills. Let’s run them one at a time. They can live or die on their own merits.”
But just a few weeks later, Rep. Fredette — who came in a distant fourth place in his bid for the Blaine House — agreed to vote on a pork pie pitched by Speaker of the Swamp, Sara Gideon.
The deal he has now agreed to rolls 15-individual funding bills into a giant spending package — totaling about $40-Million.
Perhaps worst of all, only nickels and dimes are allocated for Maine’s notorious Medicaid waitlists, the legacy of the previous Democrat administration and legislature.
However, plenty of other political pet projects receive attention and funding in Swamp Speaker Gideon’s proposal. For example, early retirement benefits for people working at correctional facilities that shut down and $600,000 for school-based clinics to hand out condoms and abortion referrals.
House Republicans already rejected the Democrat-sponsored bill for funding the clinics, since the last biennial budget shoveled an additional $160-Million at K-12 government schools across the state. Republicans also stood strong against funding the expensive, inefficient, dilapidated Downeast Correctional Facility.
Now they’re being asked to vote for a precedent-setting scheme to grant early retirement benefits for any state employee who works at a correctional facility that closes anywhere in Maine, any time in the future.
Both the school clinic and early retirement portions of the package are election-year gifts to the Democrat sponsors of the original bills. Those sponsors now have bragging rights to their base that they brought home the bacon. Meanwhile, RINO Joyce Maker was the only Republican cosponsor on the two original bills.
The massive spending package passed through the Appropriations Committee with unanimous support. RINO Sen. Roger Katz missed the vote — however, it is likely he would have voted along with the rest of the committee had he been in town. There were no hearings, no public debate. Only secret deals made away from cameras and microphones. In fact, the scene was very reminiscent to three years ago when Senate President Mike Thibodeau and then-Speaker Mark Eves hatched a deal that re-wrote the tax code and hiked your taxes.
The committee was in public session for about 10-minutes on Monday to adopt the package, after hours of behind-closed-doors meetings.
Maine First Media sources confirm Republican Rep. Jeff Timberlake — now running for termed-out Sen. Garrett Mason’s Senate seat — and the father of Swamp Creatures, Democrat Rep. John Martin were wheeling and dealing on appropriations, during multiple private meetings.
Rep. Larry Lockman says it’s obvious who got the better end of the horse trading.
“Judging by what each side is getting in this deal, it looks like (Rep. Jeff) Timberlake was outplayed by the most senior swamp critter of all, the Ayatollah of the Allagash, (Rep. John) Martin.”
Multiple sources inside the House GOP caucus tell Maine First Media that legislators are being polled to see if they will agree to return to Augusta for an EXTRA special session next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Given the unanimous vote in Appropriations, the massive spending bill is likely to pass.
From there, chances are Gov. LePage will veto the pork package — if for no other reason than the state pension carve-out for correctional facility employees. That part of the deal is a slap in the face to the Governor, and a dangerous precedent to set after the hard-won battles to reform the state pension system since LePage took office.
But with a unanimous Appropriations Committee vote in favor of the deal, pulling the votes together required to sustain the Governor’s veto will be difficult.
Under the plan, Maine’s elderly and disabled population would still languish on waiting lists for needed care. The plan offers a measly $5-million to put toward the waitlist. $5-Million would fund about 50-recipients monthly, totaling about 300-Mainers removed from the waitlist. Currently, it’s estimated there are about 1,600 of Maine’s most vulnerable comprising the waitlists. It would cost an estimated $100-Million annually from the General Fund to eliminate the waitlist.
By comparison, when Mary Mayhew headed DHHS, she had proposed $20-Million the first year, $50-Million the second in the biennial budget for 2016 and 2017.
Republicans pushing the proposal within the caucus categorize the package as a great success, because it avoids the traditional end of session “Christmas trees” where the four caucuses (Senate Republican, Senate Democrats, House Democrats, House Republicans) divide up about a million dollars for pet projects.
The one bit of silver lining in this cloud of a colossal spending package is Swamp Speaker Gideon is said to have agreed to a separate, and up-or-down vote on start-up costs for the expansion of medical welfare for the young and healthy.
Maine’s lying, dying Fake News outlets have been misrepresenting Republicans as the cause of missing funding for things like school budgets since the end of the legislative session back in mid-April. However, it was Swamp Speaker Gideon who decided to wait until the last minute to work on budgetary bills with the goal of pressuring her political opponents into voting for Medicaid expansion.
Maine First Media has extensively covered Swamp Speaker Gideon’s outrageous power play at the end of session.
- Wasting Time at Taxpayer Expense (The Pizza Party)
- House GOP Stands Firm Delaying Medicaid Expansion for the Young and Healthy
- The Swamp Queen Strikes Back: Off With Their Heads!
- The Speaker of the Swamp and Her Legislative Games (The Mosher Minutes)
- Statehouse Swamp Dwellers Bring Broken DC Politics to Maine