LePage's secret puppeteers

By COLIN WOODARD  |  February 10, 2011

We asked Demeritt who had requested the reversal of the culvert rule and he told us it was the Maine Municipal Association. Herman of MMA said this was not the case, although some members may be agitating against the measure, which could cost towns extra money. Other possibilities: J.D. IRVING, PLUM CREEK, and the MAINE TURNPIKE AUTHORITY (the latter a Preti client), all of whom lobbied against the law in 2009.

So in cases like this when Maine industries disagree, what criteria does the governor use in deciding whose side to take? "His judgment," Demeritt answered, and refused to get more specific. "The guy is used to making decisions and that's what he's done." Demeritt also refused to say who had put forward the idea to REZONE 30 PERCENT OF MAINE'S UNORGANIZED TERRITORIES FOR DEVELOPMENT, a measure sure to be controversial with wood-products, tourism, and environmental interests.

LePage's election rival, environmental attorney Eliot Cutler, says he's not surprised by the governor's wish list, but thinks it unwise. "What discourages a lot of people in making investments in Maine is that it takes so long to get an answer, and those kinds of complaints deserve a lot of attention," he says. "Until we've tried to see if we can make the regulatory process work better and more efficiently and in a less costly way, we shouldn't jump to make massive changes in the substance of our rules, which go to protect the very values in Maine that makes us different and better."

"It was our understanding that the governor wanted some reforms to create jobs, but it's not clear where the jobs are coming from in these proposals," adds Jennifer Burns Gray, staff attorney with Maine Audubon. "We're open to trying to improve the process, but not to damage our core protections."

Meanwhile, the governor's team is busy working on "phase two" and beyond. "We've sent a down payment to the Legislature and I am telling you it's a down payment, because we are just beginning," LePage told the Associated General Contractors of Maine meeting January 27. "First, we get the environmental side, then we'll get the labor side, then we'll get the (agriculture) side, and by the time we're done, we will be having what we call a balance between the protection of the environment and decent paying jobs."

Colin Woodard can be reached at colin@colinwoodard.com.  

READ MORE: "LePage's secret bankers" by Colin Woodard

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