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Monday, Sept. 15, 10:41 a.m.
Columnists | Opinion

Political columnist: LePage enrages, a definite Dirigo don’t

Gov. Paul LePage’s next business-friendly initiative is to shroud the governor’s policy-making process so it’s no longer transparent that nearly all of his policies are literally copied and pasted from the demands of big business.

He has already taken steps to try to push out public interest through his bullying tactics and fact-less statements, and now wants his “working papers” — anything written or typed — to be hidden from us.

“If I’m elected governor, we’re going to be so open, even you will be amazed,” then-candidate LePage said in 2010 to veteran capitol reporter Mal Leary, according to a March Bangor Daily News article.

Transparency in government keeps it accountable to the people. We must know how policies are created to ensure they’re working.

We are a great state whose leaders have often elevated Dirigo as an ideal, leading the nation in transparency, participation and accountability. But LePage hopes to reverse course on the nationally praised “sunshine” laws passed in the 1950s that allow citizens and reporters alike to request information regarding almost anything within the government — including the policy-making process.

What does he want to hide? Probably more of this:

Last legislative session, 28 of the 50 environmental rollbacks championed by the governor were copied verbatim from lobbyists in Augusta, such as Pierce Atwood and Preti Flaherty, according to the Portland Phoenix.

This year, LePage hid important information from legislators when he tried to force his budget onto the legislature; using a mysterious budget gap for DHHS, he asked that the Legislature throw 65,000 Mainers off MaineCare, which is funded mostly by the federal government, or else he would shut down schools, The Portland Press Herald said. This came on the back of lowering the tax rate for the richest 2 percent of people in Maine.

There are many problems with LePage’s threats. His lack of transparency is the biggest one, especially when he fails to tell the Legislature where the money goes.

His mismanagement with our DHHS is symbolized by a computer glitch that gave 19,000 Mainers MaineCare when they didn’t deserve it, the Sun Journal said. And to make matters murkier, legislators’ questions weren’t answered until March 9 — after the Legislature voted on the budget.

If you haven’t already filed your taxes with the state, you might be able to make a huge difference in electing populist legislators in a more transparent system than privately funded campaigns.

In 1996, the Legislature passed the Maine Clean Election Act, allowing a normal citizen who can demonstrate a fair amount of support and receive just over $10,000 to run a campaign. This forced candidates to knock on door after door to garner support. It puts the game into the hands of the general population instead of those who can nearly buy themselves elections.

That is, if the Republican-led Legislature decides not to gut the clean elections fund, into which Mainers have donated a small portion tax returns to help prevent outside money from contaminating our politics.

LePage and his supporters’ actions are bizarre considering their promises of a transparent government and a laser focus on jobs. Instead they’re attempting to change the rules to not be unseated or held accountable.

Our governor and legislators need to live up to Dirigo and not hurt the integrity of our government by making it less transparent. They need to be reminded of how democracy works.

Noel Madore is a third-year public management student. He is a member of the College Democrats. His columns will appear every Monday.