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Political Brew: Politics of the pandemic and when to "reopen"

Gov. Mills is planning for a cautious reopening of Maine's economy, severely limited because of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MAINE, USA — Gov. Janet Mills is working to craft a plan for a cautious reopening of Maine's economy, which has been severely limited because of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mills said last Thursday that the plan will be based on science and guidelines developed by the Maine Center for Disease Control.

But for those hungry for a timetable, Mills had very little to offer.

"She really didn't say a lot other than 'we're getting ready to get ready,'" said NEWS CENTER Maine Republican political analyst Phil Harriman.

He adds "There's enough data nationally and internationally to give us a very clear picture of how this virus is behaving, and it is time to help people get back to work because a lot of people are struggling financially."

Democratic analyst John Richardson says he likes the fact that the governor is putting people's health first by making sure we have enough health care resources to respond if necessary.

"I also like the fact," said Richardson, "that she got the commissioner of economic development involved. 'We're looking to leverage the business community, call us with your ideas.'"

The governor's approach so far is not likely to appease the people who demonstrated outside the Blaine House and the State House last Monday, calling for an end to the stay-at-home order, and a quick reopening of Maine's economy.

Richardson believes those marchers, including right-to-life and second amendment advocates, muddled their message.

Richardson says "It seemed like a hodgepodge of protesters, and I think that undercut the main point that they wanted to make, which was, 'Governor, please listen to us, we want to open up the economy.'"

Harriman agrees there was a political element to the demonstration, and criticism of the governor by Republican lawmakers.

"Whenever two or more legislators are gathered, there's a political agenda unfolding," Harriman said.

But he also believes that many people feel "We've done our job, it's clear we've got this under control, let's safely get back to work."

Former Gov. Paul LePage weighed in on the question of seasonal work permits for foreign workers this summer. LePage, a Republican who has been a strong supporter of President Trump, wrote to the president pointing out the need for seasonal workers in Maine as the economy reopens, and hoping that restrictions on immigration won't jeopardize the needs of the states.

John Richardson says it is "ironic that a Tea Party Republican is arguing that we ought to open up and have less restrictive immigration rules at the same time that the president has basically closed the borders."

To Phil Harriman, this is "Paul LePage being Paul LePage."

Harriman says LePage "has a relationship with President Trump, and why wouldn't we want Mainers to use whatever means of communication they can to get the attention of the president, because so much of our economy is dependent upon tourists coming here."

Our analysts also weigh in on whether the Maine Legislature should be called back to Augusta to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Richardson says it's too soon to do that safely, but he says Gov. Mills has the power to use budget curtailment to address revenue shortfalls.

Harriman says he would agree with that "if the governor was implementing curtailment orders, which I have not yet seen."
He adds "I don't think there's any dispute that Maine tax revenues are going to be off, and hopefully in a manageable way, but that doesn't appear at this moment to be the case."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.

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