x
Breaking News
More () »

Maine's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Maine | NewsCenterMaine.com

Political Brew: Post-pandemic revenues, lobstermen vs. wind turbines, a union resurgence, and is Biden bringing back big government?

This week our Political Brew analysts are former state senator and mayor of Portland, Democrat Ethan Strimling, and former Republican state senator Phil Harriman.

MAINE, USA — Maine saw big changes in pandemic restrictions this week, including the elimination of the outdoor mask mandate. And Maine's revenue forecasting committee projects state revenues will exceed pre-pandemic levels for the rest of this fiscal year and the next fiscal year.

Though Congress gets much of the credit for the economic boost, our analysts say this is a political plus for Gov. Janet Mills as she runs for re-election next year.

"If the economy stays like this, it will be very good news for Janet Mills," says Ethan Strimling. "It would be very good news for any incumbent in 2022."

And Phil Harriman agrees, saying "That's a great trampoline for any politician to jump off of into an election year."

RELATED: Mills lifts outdoor mask requirement

But there's a potential political threat to Gov. Mills. In particular, fishermen and the lobster industry staged another demonstration to speak out against offshore wind power projects. They argue the test projects in the works could cost them their livelihoods.

Mills is a big supporter of offshore wind and is trying to reassure fishermen with a 10-year moratorium on wind turbines inside state waters, within three miles of shore, where she says most lobstering is done. But fishermen remain skeptical.

Harriman says, "I think if she can assure them that it is three miles and further out, she can weather the storm."

Strimling says Maine has to get serious about climate change, and wind power is part of that process.

"I have confidence that the governor is going to make sure that we protect jobs on our waterfront."

But he adds, "We can't protect one industry at the expense of the planet. I think she's working hard to find the right balance, and I think people understand that and respect it."

RELATED: Maine lobstermen rally to stop offshore wind power

Nurses at Maine Medical Center, the state's largest hospital, have voted to form a union. Just a couple of weeks ago, workers at the Portland Museum of Art did the same, part of a significant rise in union membership in Maine over the last year.

Phil Harriman calls it "an indication that workers feel that they aren't being heard or understood. It's also an indication that management is not living up to best practices."

Ethan Strimling agrees, and says "workers are starting to say, 'look, we need to get our fair share... and that the people we serve are being served to the best of our abilities.'"

RELATED: Maine Medical Center nurses vote to form first-ever union

In his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden has proposed about $6 trillion in spending, which leads some to say he's bringing back big government, a notion that Strimling rejects.

Strimling says President Ronald Reagan created "the biggest government we ever had. He just redirected the priorities. And that's what Joe Biden is doing, he's redirecting our priorities and redirecting our spending to get it more toward the working class, toward families, toward rebuilding our economy. And it is a long time coming."

Harriman points out we are spending far more than when President Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over.

"It probably does a lot of good in the short run," Harriman says. "But at some point, these dollars have to be repaid. And that's going to come out a significant cost."

Our analysts also discuss the effort to eliminate qualified immunity for Maine police officers and Rep. Jared Golden's call to lower Medicaid eligibility to 60.

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Weekend Morning Report.