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Political Brew: An early budget, Lobstermen vs. Offshore wind, and addressing gun violence

Our analysts this week are former Republican state Senator Phil Harriman and Democrat Ethan Strimling, former state Senator and mayor of Portland.

MAINE, USA — Democrats in the Maine legislature are set to pass a two-year $8.3 billion budget by April 1st without needing a two-thirds majority.

Republican legislators are outraged, and Phil Harriman agrees with them that "It is definitely a power play."

Harriman says there could be a price to pay in two years when the state budget is "way out of whack."

He says, "This might be the opening that Republicans need to show the people of Maine that putting the Republicans back in leadership might result in a more fiscally prudent government."

Ethan Strimling calls that 'wishful thinking."

"This is a good move by the Democrats," says Strimling. "They're doing it to make sure that schools are funded, to make sure the property tax relief is still in place, to make sure that our cities are funded."

He adds a lesson to take from the recently enacted supplemental budget, which all four Republican leaders in the legislature voted against.

"I think Democrats are looking at them and saying clearly, and obstruction is all they're interested in."

This past week, lobstermen staged rallies on land and sea to protest work done for an offshore wind turbine test project.

They say it will damage the Gulf of Maine's ecosystem and hurt their ability to make a living.

Governor Mills is a strong supporter of offshore wind power, but a bill in the Legislature would block all of that kind of development on the Maine coast.

Strimling thinks both sides have valid concerns and says, "There will be no lobster industry if we don't deal with climate change... But we do need to bring all players to the table. I think if we can find the right answer when everybody is communicating."

Harriman agrees, saying, "Let's do this in an isolated experiment to see what works and doesn't work for both sides of this equation."

Our analysts also discuss the renewed calls for action to combat gun violence in the wake of mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.

Strimling says he has little faith that the federal government will do anything, "But the state of Maine could do something. We could ban assault weapons, and we could create waiting periods for guns; we could limit magazine size."

Harriman is skeptical that action at the state level would have much impact, saying "it's the behavior of the person that we need to influence."

RELATED: UPDATE: 21-year-old Lewiston man arrested in connection with gunshot investigation near Poirer's Market

And he says Maine has a high rate of gun ownership and a low level of gun violence. But Strimling points out that "thousands of guns are purchased in Maine and brought to other states where some of these heinous crimes occur."

Strimling and Harriman also discuss a proposal to create a new Lieutenant Governor position in Maine, the state's efforts to control health care and prescription drug costs, and Sen. Susan Collins and other Republican senators' visit the Mexican border to learn more about the immigration surge.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine's Weekend Morning Report.

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