PORTLAND, Maine — THE STATE BUDGET
Progressives did very well at the ballot box last fall, and they came to office with a long list of pent-up priorities.
As this session of the legislature nears an end, our NEWS CENTER Maine political analysts take a look at how well Democrats have done in accomplishing their goals.
John Richardson, a Democrat and a former Speaker of the House, says the Democrats have kept many promises, including Medicaid expansion. He adds "I think that if there's any frustration, it will be on the fact that they can't make up all the differences in one session" after eight years of being stymied by former Governor Paul LePage.
Republican Phil Harriman, a former state Senator, agrees, saying "They won as soon as Janet Mills raised her right hand to take the oath of office as governor, on many of the issues right out of the box, Medicaid expansion, increased funding for education... Did they get some of the additional incremental things embedded into state government for services for future funding? Not so much. But there are two sessions to this Legislature."
Gov. Janet Mills has unveiled her priorities for bond issues-- $239 million in all, with $189 proposed for the ballot this November, the rest put off until next year. That includes $105 million for fixing roads and bridges. There is also money earmarked for boosting broadband access and renewable energy, child care and land conservation.
Richardson says "It looks a little big, but not in the context of the last 10 years."
He points out that many voter-approved projects were canceled or delayed during the LePage administration.
But Harriman says that $239 million figure, combined with $800 million more in new spending in the budget is more than $1 billion in a short time. He says "We got to be careful that that doesn't come back to bite us."
Harriman adds "There are some (bond issues) that I would say really should be a government expense, like the child care initiative versus the roads and bridges."
CMP CORRIDOR FIGHT
The Maine House has killed a bill to study whether the proposed Central Maine Power transmission line project will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the House has approved bills that would force local approval of the corridor and make it harder to take property by eminent domain.
Phil Harriman says this sets up a showdown between legislative Democrats and opponents of the project, and Gov. Janet Mills, who supports it.
Says Harriman, "I will be surprised if Gov. Mills doesn't veto with these, and that's just going to add to the end- of- session hysteria. The temperature is rising outside, it's rising inside, the budget has to get balanced, and this issue is lurking along with others.:
And John Richardson adds "If these are vetoed to try to make the CMP corridor go through without legislative input, I think you're likely to see a referendum here in the near future."
Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.