Phil: Tuesday’s State of the State address by Gov. Paul LePage was unlike the previous 25 I’ve attended or listened to.
Ethan: Twenty-five! My God, how can you stand it? And how old are you anyway?
Phil: Eight each from John McKernan, Angus King and John Baldacci, plus two from LePage makes 26, so listen and learn, young Jedi. Unlike the others, this speech was a plea for facing facts about where Maine is relative to the U.S. and the world. Be bold and courageous, the governor told the Legislature.
Ethan: While I certainly have not witnessed 25 State of the State addresses, what I did find surprising is how much he used the moment to say how bad things are in Maine. Usually, a guy who has been governor for two years would be saying, “Maine is on the move,” as King pronounced from the second day on the job.
Phil: He touched on several accomplishments like avoiding the unfunded pension crisis, restoring integrity at the Maine State Housing Authority and the Maine Turnpike Authority and improving the permitting process for businesses.
Ethan: Certainly, but his focus was much more on the problems in Maine as opposed to his accomplishments since becoming governor.
Phil: That’s what I like about him. He isn’t spending time fluffing up his feathers. He used his moment to be very blunt about the key things that inhibit our prosperity: unpaid bills, short changing our students, energy costs stifling businesses and many Mainers feeling the cold. He passionately declared, “Maine needs to fix these things now.” I agree with him.
Ethan: I do, too, actually. In my opinion, he’s right to say education must get better, that energy costs have to be reduced and that our business climate must be improved. The problem is his answer to these problems and his lack of results. Had I given the Democratic response I would have said, “The governor’s right. Maine does need to get better. And you had two years to start getting things back on track, and it didn’t work.”
Phil: Sometimes you stun me. You’re the same guy who blames former President George W. Bush for all that ails America. Yet, poor education, low wages, high energy costs and hundreds of millions of unpaid bills is LePage’ s fault in just two years? Do you realize how hyper partisan and narrow minded you appear to be?
Ethan: First of all, I have never blamed Bush for all that ails America. I blamed him for what Obama inherited, just like you blame Democrats for what LePage inherited. Both are fair. Second, I agree with LePage that he should be honest with Maine. I actually found it refreshing. I was simply saying that we Democrats should not be disagreeing with the problems he has laid out. We should be disagreeing with his solutions.
Phil: Disagreeing with his solutions? Lowering taxes, reducing regulations and ending political nepotism are solutions people should oppose? You Democrats perplex me!
Ethan: Did you drink too much coffee this morning? Speaking of taxes, I found it very interesting that LePage said, “Let’s not raise taxes, right now.” You think there was an opening there for some compromise on long term revenue?
Phil: I caught that, too. Maybe he was referring to the possibility in his second term? If you listened to the vision he has, the long-term revenue is right before us. All the Legislature has to do is be courageous enough to address the points he made, and our revenues will grow from having more taxpayers earning higher incomes.
Ethan: The ideology that lowering taxes will increase revenue died when Bush’s tax cuts turned a huge surplus into a deficit.
Phil: Geez, how is it possible that I like you so much? I can’t even convince you that a change in attitude toward small and family business will get our economy moving again, which in turn will grow revenues in our beloved state.
Ethan: Personally, I actually think he was extending a subtle possibility for compromise. If he gets some of what he wants (charter school funding, program cuts, welfare tightening), he might be willing to close some loopholes or target some revenue enhancements.
Phil: So let’s talk about his less controversial message: guns. What did you think about his announcement to convene a governor’s task force on domestic violence to explore taking guns away from abusers?
Ethan: Oh, yes! I can’t believe I forgot to bring that up. LePage calling for gun control! I was so excited I almost called his office offering to be his token liberal appointee.
Phil: And how about his assessment of some lobbyists and legislators using the system to enrich special interest groups at the expense of hard-working Mainers? Was he referring to anyone or group you know?
Ethan: Are you talking about the Chamber of Commerce opposing minimum-wage increases or when the governor proposed building a new prison no one seems to think we need?
Phil: I was referring to the new mandate by the Public Utilities Commission, forcing Mainers to pay higher energy prices to subsidize offshore wind power.
Ethan: Well, either way, after what LePage dished out on Tuesday, I suppose we should all be depressed about the state of our beloved state.
Phil: No, no, young Skywalker. Our fearless leader has merely dished out some truth, and the truth will always set you free. Or, in my case, motivate the person who decided to “key” the door of my car, while you and I were analyzing my 26th State of the State address.
Ethan: LePage was right. Things really have gone to hell in a handbasket.