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How Maine Statutory Law Evolved Under LePage: Part One

This post was recently selected for the front page of Tremr,  an international blogger platform


Governor LePage rose to power with the support of Maine's Tea party movement in the 2010 elections.

LePage's campaign message decreed that it is not the role of government to create jobs, but to support private sector job creation. Paul LePage campaigned on lower taxes and fewer regulations, routing out special interests and purging the state's welfare system of waste and fraud. His crowning Job creation bill was enacted in December 2017. The Major Business Headquarters Expansion Act extended Maine's corporate welfare far beyond the geographical borders which define our state sovereignty, an act intended to position Maine advantageously in the global corporate world order. The Major Business Headquarters Expansion Act lives up to Paul LePage's description as a "transformational"act, and yet it was enacted in remarkable media silence, a silence which has continued in the many reviews summing up the LePage administration.

Meanwhile in social media a simple narrative is spun by LePages supporters:"LePage balanced the budget. Mills will overspend by restoring LePage de-funded benefits for the lower half of the economy. The word "welfare state" is used in as occluded a manner as Karl Marx's popularization of the word "capitalism" intending "private or free enterprise", as if states are not also capitalist operators, and as if corporate welfare is not welfare. It is possible for Mills to balance the budget, while funding benefits to the less affluent by de-funding some of LePage's aggressive corporate welfare spending, although deconstructing any of Maine's corporate welfare system has never been enacted since it was established in the seventies, to my knowledge. If Mills wants to pass her own transformational act, the stage is clearly set.

In Maine's Pugnacious Governor Leaves Behind A Complex Legacy, Steve Mistler, posting for Maine writes:

He will depart office having rejected over 640 bills - more than the combined totals of all Maine governors by Steve Mitsler for Maine Public,org

From this we can justifiably conclude that no bills were passed under LePage which were not fully consistent with LePage's intended policy. It is by examining the bills passed under the LePage;s administration that we can glean the real purpose and affect of the Lepage administration.

2011 Overwriting the Maine Constitution's Requirements for Bond Referrendums.

The promise that Paul LePage is a constitutionalist was broken in the early years of the LePage administration when an over write the Maine constitutional requirement for placing fiscal information with bond questions on the ballot, was enacted.

Maine Constitution
 Article IX
....Whenever ratification by the electors is essential to the validity of bonds to be issued on behalf of the State, the question submitted to the electors shall be accompanied by a statement setting forth the total amount of bonds of the State outstanding and unpaid, the total amount of bonds of the State authorized and unissued, and the total amount of bonds of the State contemplated to be issued if the enactment submitted to the electors be ratified....
In 2011 the Maine statute §152. Ratification of bond issue  made compliance with Section 14's requirement for fiscal information on ballots, optional. In the last sentence of the paragraph beginning with the words "In accordance with the Constitution of Maine, Article IX, section 14, the Treasurer of State shall prepare a signed statement,called the Treasurer's Statement," the words “or it may be printed as a separate document that is made available to voters as provided in Title 21-A, sections 605-A and 651” are added.

Title 21-A, sections 651 instructs the Treasurer's Statement to be placed "somewhere outside the guardrail enclosure at each voting booth". Technically that can be satisfied by placing the information anywhere except within the enclosed voting area. The point of the legislation is about where the information should not be placed. not about where it is to be found. This tells us that neither the Maine Legislature, nor the LePage administration, wanted fiscal information to be transparent to the voter, This deflates another of LePage's promises, that his administration would be the most transparent in state history?
2. Election materials distributed and posted.A In each voting booth: one voting instruction poster prepared under section 605-A; and [2011, c. 342, §22 (NEW).]
B Outside the guardrail enclosure at each voting place: (1)-(5)…
(6) One Treasurer's Statement prepared under Title 5, section 152;
(8) One copy of the Office of Fiscal and Program Review's estimate of the fiscal impact prepared under Title 1, section 353. [2011, c. 342, §22(NEW).] [1] 

Hospital Debt Monty

In 2003, The Legislature, under Democratic leadership, returned the liquor industry to the private sector.]with these words:
Transfer of wholesale liquor activities
The Legislature finds that it is in the public interest to seek efficiencies and cost savings from privatizing the State's wholesale liquor business.  
How the Above appears online today. Another change which occurred during the LePage years is that repealed legislation is often erased rather than indicated with a strike through;

In 2013, at LePage's direction, the legislature reclaimed the state owned liquor industry with these words
§90. Contract for operations of wholesale liquor activities
1. Statement of purpose.  The Legislature finds that it is in the public interest to seek efficiencies and maximize growth in the State’s wholesale spirits business while ensuring that growth in revenue from the business is achieved in a socially responsible manner. The contracting of the operations of the wholesale spirits business should serve this purpose and provide the State’s agency liquor store partners with effective and efficient services in order to responsibly serve consumers of spirits in the State.[ 2013, c. 269, Pt. A, §4 (NEW) .][ 2013, c. 269, Pt. A, §4 (NEW) .] 

At the time, I noticed that the hospital debt was spoken about as resolved when it had only been converted into another debt with a contingent plan to use the reclaimed liquor business to pay off the bond. It seemed premature to conclude that the contingency plan would work but none the less it was widely celebrated that LePage had paid down the hospital debt.

My reaction is corroborated by a statement made in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2013
Prior to fiscal year 2013, the General Fund reflected an accrual for the State’s share of the settlement of the State’s hospital debt. In fiscal year 2013, $183.5 million of the State’s share was recorded in the Other Special Revenue Fund to reflect the payment of the debt that occurred in fiscal year 2014.
Note the future is stated as having happened in the past. This accounting method is not appropriate for a balance sheet. Balance sheets tell it as it is, at a particular point in time. No matter what tense is used to identify revenue occurring in 2014, In the year 2013, that revenue had not yet occurred.

The sentences following the previously mentioned statement come across as an oddly placed justification for the accounting method used. This too seems inappropriate since it is standard for one accounting method to be used through out and not have different accounting methods used for different parts of a balance statement. It is common practice for the explanation of the accounting method used to be placed in an introductory section of the report. Even if the method is justified. the method it does not address the fact that revenues projected for 2014 are included in the balance sheet for 2013.
... The primary factor that has a significant impact on the State’s Financial Statements compiled and issued in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles as applicable to governments includes accruing tax revenues for budgetary purposes and for financial statement purposes without accruing the offsetting liabilities for budgetary purposes
My current inquiry into the Hospital debt pay-off concludes, for the moment. Today when I searched for the Maine Annual Financial Report, I was unable to find any reports dated later than 2013. I found the 2013 report on  Digital Maine Repository but a search for the same title for the year 2017 produces only the year 2013, and so, it is not possible, on this date, to find out more information, using Maine financial reports.

To be continued in next post....


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