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Political Brew: Reopening, revolt, and a repeat

In Maine politics this week, we're dealing with reopening Maine's economy, the revolt by some over the pace of the plan, and a possible return by former Gov. LePage.

MAINE, USA — As of Friday, May 1, some Maine businesses are free to reopen as part of phase one of Gov. Janet Mills' plan to restart the economy in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

But some Republican politicians say the process is far too slow, and some business owners agree, and they're pushing back on the ongoing restrictions.

Dale Crafts, who is running for the Republican nomination for Congress in Maine's second district, says he's signing on to a class-action lawsuit against what he calls the government overreach into the private sector caused by Governor Mills' newest executive order.

"I don't think this can succeed, and I don't think it's a smart approach," says attorney and NEWS CENTER Maine Democratic political analyst John Richardson.

Richardson thinks business owners, in particular, should understand that plans always need tweaking.

"The governor has been very clear that this is a dynamic plan, it can change," Richardson says. "That change can occur when people petition the government and talk to the governor or representatives of the governor."

Republican analyst Phil Harriman says he wouldn't take the matter to court, but he agrees with Crafts' point.

Harriman says "This is becoming more painful by the day for employers and especially employees. We've got to pick up the pace of helping people get back to a safe way to earn money, and pay their bills, and help our economy recover."

As for the damage being done to the state budget, Gov. Mills has ordered a freeze on all non-emergency spending and hiring. Estimates say it could free up to $250 million in unspent funds to help shore up the budget.

Harriman and Richardson agree that this is a step in the right direction, but they think the governor is going to have to start implementing budget curtailments.

Harriman says one problem with this kind of freeze is that "the definition of 'emergency' takes on very different interpretations depending upon who is in charge."

And Richardson says "I believe the curtailment is something that will happen. Frankly, you're probably going to see somewhere around $700 million of cuts that are going to have to happen."

This past week, former Gov. Paul LePage told a Boston radio host that he intends to challenge Gov. Mills in the 2022 election.

John Richardson brushes it off, saying "I'm hearing 'Florida resident running for governor.'"

And he says we should get past this emergency and this year's election before we start worrying about the gubernatorial race more than two years away.

Phil Harriman agrees LePage's timing is bad, but he also says it's clear that "the guy deeply cares about the state of Maine."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.

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