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Maine Governor Sets New Veto Record for State
06/28/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

A gubernatorial record that went unbroken for 36 years has collapsed beneath the pen of Gov. Paul LePage, who has now vetoed more bills in a single legislative session than any other Maine governor. And by all accounts, he isn't done yet. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Maine Governor Sets New Veto Record for State Listen

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It's a phrase that Maine Senate President Justin Alfond has used so often during this legislative session, he committed it to memory: "The question now before the Senate is, 'Shall this bill become law notwithstanding the objections of the governor.'"

Gov. Paul LePage has, thus far, vetoed more than 50 bills sent to him by the Maine Legislature. That surpasses the old record of 44, set by independent Gov. James B. Longley, back in 1977. Like Longley, LePage is staunchly opposed to tax increases, and like Longley, tends to have a polarizing effect in the media and in the halls of the State House.

Former Bangor Daily News State House Bureau Chief John Day, of Coplin Plantation, remembers Longley's veto spree well.

"You had almost a unanimous attitude or opinion of James B. Longley," Day says. "The Republican leadership hated him - Joe Sewall, Ken McLeod, Linwood Palmer would spend a lot of time holed up with Joe Brennan and John Martin, the Democratic leaders, agreeing on what an idiot Longley was."

And like Longley, LePage has been forced to govern by veto, while critics have tried to portray him as an obstructionist. But to those who see big government and increased taxes as the hallmarks of government at it's worse, LePage is a hero - which Day says is exactly the way Longley was embraced by his supporters nearly 40 years ago.

And Day says the philosophy behind the veto pen will resonate with his base - and others.

"People who think that LePage is in some sort of terrible difficulty - and I'm basing this on what happened with Longley - they're kidding themselves," Day says. "If I'm LePage, I'm saying, 'I'm against taxes, I'm against increasing the scope of Maine government. You know where I stand, you know where they stand, they want higher taxes, they want more government and I'm the only thing between them getting what they want and them not getting what they want.'"

LePage's political director, Brent Littlefield, says the governor has wielded his veto pen with convincing effectiveness. Although lawmakers have thus far overridden three of the vetoes - most notably the state budget and an omnibus energy bill - LePage has successfully convinced enough Republicans in the House and Senate to sustain nearly 50 of his vetoes. Littlefield says LePage comes at state policy in much the same way he did when evaluating business decisions.

"If he sees a process where a legislature is just going along down the same path they've been going down for 30 years without much success, he's going to speak up and say something about it, and that's part of the reason why he's issued so many vetoes," Littlefield says.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, have sent more bills down to the governor's office before they recessed this week. They will return to the State House July 9 to hold override votes on a number of those same bills that LePage is likely to veto.

File photos: A.J. Higgins


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