6/28/18, by Rep. Larry Lockman,
Mark Twain nailed it when he said the liberty and property of the people are never secure until the Legislature adjourns.
With that in mind, consider this:
The extra special session of the Maine Legislature that convened last Tuesday – the Mike and Sara show — is turning out to be everything I expected it to be: a reckless and irresponsible spending spree and a raid on the wallets of Maine people. Leftist legislators won’t be satisfied until they have spent the cupboard bare at the Statehouse.
During the five days we were at the Coliseum, we blew through $139-Million of the budget surplus generated by Gov. Paul LePage’s two terms of fiscal discipline. There’s just $174,888 left and not a dime for the Rainy Day fund.
Breaking that number down further, since we re-convened last week — we’ve spent nearly $5-Million for every hour we’ve been in session!
Speaker of the Swamp Gideon and RINO-in-Chief, Senate President Mike Thibodeau delivered majority votes in their respective chambers to pass medical welfare for non-disabled young adults with no children — the so-called Medicaid expansion bill. Just nine out of eighteen GOP state Senators voted against the expansion. The bill raids the Fund for a Healthy Maine (tobacco settlement money) for $23.5 million, plus $30-Million of “surplus” money in the General Fund.
Not a dime of that new money will go to any of the 1,600 most vulnerable elderly and disabled Mainers who continue to languish on the notorious Baldacci Medicaid waitlists! They will have to keep waiting, because the Legislature has shoved them aside to give free medical care to legions of healthy young adults.
The only silver lining to this very dark cloud is that the Medicaid expansion vote in the House was not veto-proof. If we stick together in the House, we can sustain Gov. LePage’s likely veto.
Readers should also be aware that the bipartisan back-room deal-making continues in the powerful appropriations committee. But because the deals are made in private, it’s impossible to enforce them when the committee convenes in public session. Republicans learned that lesson the hard way last month when they agreed to bundle three bills together to fund county jails and pay raises for direct-care workers.
Instead of killing the original bills (as promised) after bundling them into a new spending bill (LD 924), the Democrats on the committee kept one of them (LD 1490) alive so they could use it as a vehicle for more spending, even spending unrelated to county jails.
Yes, that’s how business is done at the Swamp — if you’re not careful, the ‘gators will have you for lunch.
This past Thursday, a majority on the appropriations committee voted to use LD 1490 — the jail funding bill Democrats agreed to kill last month — after it was bundled into LD 924, as a vehicle to sweep $3-Million from accounts at the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation into the General Fund.
The swamp critters took surplus funds from professional license fees (from beauticians, doctors, insurance agents, dentists, etc.) and swept it out of those accounts so the swampers could spend it on their pet projects completely unrelated to the licensed professions. Instead of returning that surplus money to the licensees who paid it in, legislators are now free to spend it on whatever suits their fancy in an election year.
And the presiding officers Gideon and Thibodeau can hold us hostage as long as they want since there is no statutory adjournment date for this extra special session. They can keep us in session until they’ve spent every dime of the surplus. And remember, that surplus is only there because of the tax, budget, and pension reforms enacted by Gov. Paul LePage and Republican legislators over the past seven years.
It’s now beginning to sink in for many GOP legislators — it was a huge mistake to return to the Coliseum without a written agreement on which bills we would vote on, and in what order. Nothing has changed; we are still subject to the whims of Madame Speaker, who lashed out at us as “terrorists” when we refused to extend the session on HER terms, back in April.
But we do have one thing she wants to take away from us: the power to wean candidates off the crack cocaine of Maine politics. Getting access to highly addictive “clean election” cash FORCED from Maine taxpayers to fund legislative and gubernatorial campaigns is Madame Speaker’s top priority.
Thanks to a drafting error in last year’s appropriation bill, the Ethics Commission will not be allowed to disburse any “clean election” money after July 1. That means candidates who signed up for campaign welfare won’t get any more than the minimum disbursement ($5,075 for House candidates, about $20,000 for Senate candidates) unless the Legislature opens the spigot again.
On Tuesday night of this week, the swamp addicts amended a good bill that would keep political petitions away from poll locations to include a fix for their Candidate Welfare crack. The House passed the Welfare for Politicians amended bill by a 68 to 47 vote — with 36 members absent. The Senate will pass it, probably with a veto-proof margin, and it will head to the Governor’s desk for a veto.
So once again, it will come down to the House GOP caucus to stand firm and sustain a LePage veto.
Speaker Gideon sent us home Tuesday just before midnight without allowing us to vote on tax conformity or transportation bonds. She is holding those bills hostage in exchange for another puff on the Candidate Welfare crack pipe.
We will return on July 9th to deal with vetoes, and whatever else Sara and Mike decide to put in front of us.
In closing, I should note that Maine’s lying, dying, Fake News industry is doing what it does best at the Coliseum on the Kennebec: providing political cover for the Mike and Sara show. When Democrats in the House tabled tax conformity on a party-line vote on Tuesday, BDN reporter Chris Cousins tweeted that the Legislature pushed off a decision on this important issue into the future. But he neglected to mention that every single Republican voted against the tabling motion. Just another example of fake journalism.
My organization, Maine First Project, will continue to provide honest updates on what’s happening at the Swamp, and we will continue to apply pressure on legislators to put Mainers first.
And a big “thank you” to our friends at Maine First Media for giving me this forum and offering an alternative to the Leftist lap-dog press that has ruled Maine’s newspaper stands and airwaves for far too long.
Lawrence Lockman (R-Amherst) is serving his third term in the Maine House of Representatives (District 137).