Republican Governor Paul LePage has been called some nasty names — arrogant boor, insensitive clod, Paul — but none has accurately described his real inclinations. Although hints of the genuine LePage have occasionally slipped out, the governor has proved to be a master of political disguise, a wise move because the truth would be such a shock to his supporters that they'd probably spill hot tea all over their private parts.
Paul LePage is a liberal.
Ow, you ought to have a doctor look at that burn right away, or you're never going to be able to have children.
Meanwhile, swallow a couple of Oxys and maybe some Viagra, and consider the evidence.
There are a few things every red-blooded conservative knows about liberals:
1) They like to raise taxes.
2) They like to spend all the money they have and lots they don't.
3) They leave their debts for other people to pay.
4) They lack the courage to defy special interests by eliminating inefficient and/or ineffective state programs.
All of which describe LePage.
Let's start with taxes. In the last legislative session, the governor supported a health-insurance reform bill that imposed a new tax on everybody who already has coverage. In order to avoid burdening insurance companies with the cost of covering poor people with pre-existing conditions, LePage and GOP legislators required anyone who could afford a policy to pay an extra four bucks a month to reimburse those financial corporations for their compassionate service to the impoverished.
Call that a fee. Call that a contribution. Call it a way to pay for repairing your damaged genitals. But the law says you have to cough it up — and that's the definition of a tax.
There's more. Hidden in LePage's budget proposal for the next two years is an item that calls for imposing a sales tax on newspapers. The governor says newsprint containing venomous attacks on his job performance shouldn't be entitled to an exemption because, unlike other tax-free products such as blueberry pies and granola bars, it's not a "necessity."
Good point. Of course, it would be a stronger one if LePage weren't also calling for repealing the sales tax on airplanes, which are a necessity only until they invent flying cars.
Moving on to spending money we don't have. The governor, who's planning to empty the state's Rainy Day Fund to cover the shortfall in his current budget, also wants to settle Maine's debt to the state's hospitals for unpaid Medicaid claims. That amounts to $186 million, which is exactly $186 million more than is available. Not a problem for Red Paul. He plans to borrow the money and pay it back with future revenue from liquor sales.
In other words, he'll retire an old debt by creating a new one that'll be covered by money the state doesn't have yet, but its expert revenue forecasters (zero correct predictions in the last decade) promise will show up as soon as we stop buying all our booze in New Hampshire.
If there were some sap named Peter involved in this scheme, it would be a classic case of robbing him to pay Paul.
The drink-a-cocktail-to-save-a-hospital program is such an extreme case of liberal economic thinking that I suspect even Democratic state Senate President Justin Alfond will find it too radical.