Patterico's Pontifications


The Conservative Governor Who Fights Like a Progressive

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:15 pm

[guest post by JVW]

The Cato Institute released it’s annual report card on America’s governors earlier this week, and in looking through it, I was struck by one entry in particular. Here is what they had to say about Maine’s second-term Republican governor, Paul LePage:

Governor Paul LePage is a staunch fiscal conservative. He has restrained spending and cut state employment by 7 percent since taking office. LePage has signed into law cost-cutting reforms to welfare and health programs, and he has decried the negative effects of big government: “Big, expensive welfare programs riddled with fraud and abuse threaten our future. Too many Mainers are dependent on government. Government dependency has not — and never will — create prosperity.”

Now that is an impressive scorecard for any conservative governor, but the way LePage has gone about governing on the right in a state where legislative power is divided between the two major parties is very interesting:

In 2015, LePage proposed a plan to reduce the top individual income tax rate from 7.95 percent to 5.75 percent, reduce the top corporate tax rate from 8.93 percent to 6.75 percent, eliminate narrow tax breaks, repeal the estate tax, and raise sales taxes. When the legislature rejected the plan, LePage said that he would veto any bills sponsored by Democrats. In the end, the legislature passed a budget that included substantial tax cuts over the veto of LePage, who wanted even larger cuts. The plan cut the top personal income tax rate from 7.95 to 7.15 percent, reduced taxes for low-income households, increased the estate tax exemption, and made the previous sales tax rate increase permanent.

In 2016, LePage pushed for more tax cuts. In his state of the state address, he proposed reducing the individual income tax rate to 4 percent over time and repealing the estate tax.

In other words, Gov. LePage demanded a huge tax cut, goaded Democrats into passing a smaller tax cut (I’m not expert on Maine politics, but I doubt that Democrats were too keen on cutting taxes at all) even going so far as to forcing them to override his veto, then the very next year came back and demanded even more in tax cuts, the ones he was denied the previous year. This is exactly how Democrats treat spending: get what you can this time around, demand the rest of it next time around, but always keep pushing for more, more, more. When Pine Tree State Democrats responded by raising taxes via voter initiative in the high-turnout Presidential election year of 2016, LePage was ready to do battle:

In November of that year, voters narrowly passed, by a 51–49 margin, an initiative (Question 2) to impose a 3 percentage point income tax surtax on households earning more than $200,000 a year to fund education. LePage opposed the hike.

LePage’s budget in January 2017 called for repeal of the surtax and a major overhaul of the state’s tax system. He proposed replacing the multi-rate individual income tax with a 5.75 percent flat tax, cutting the corporate tax rate, eliminating the estate tax, raising the exemption level on retirement income, and offsetting some of the revenue loss by broadening the sales tax base and raising lodging taxes. After a battle with the legislature and a government shutdown, a deal was struck to increase education spending but repeal the surtax on high earners imposed in 2016.

Again, LePage appears to be a first-rate wheeler and dealer. When the Dems convinced the casual voter (number of voters in 2014: 611,255; number of voters in 2016: 771,892) to come out and support a tax increase on someone else, the governor made repeal of the increase a condition of reaching a deal and appears to have absolutely waxed the high-tax advocates in budget negotiations, shutting down the government to demonstrate his seriousness.

But eternal vigilance is the price of (economic) freedom, so Gov. LePage and his allies have to forever be on the watch for attempts by Maine Democrats to collect and spend more and more dollars from their fellow citizens.

In 2018, LePage proposed conforming to changes under the 2017 federal tax law. Simple con- formity would raise taxes by about $300 million a year, so the governor proposed to offset the taxpayer cost with tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, a corporate tax rate cut from 8.93 per- cent to 8.33 percent, and estate tax reductions. The legislature failed to pass the plan.

LePage is term-limited out this year, and none of the candidates vying to replace him appear to have his flair for conflict or fortitude in staunchly defending low-tax principles. I guess it’s the way of things: the parsimonious governor is followed by the profligate governor and vice-versa (except of course in California, where all governors spend like golf duffers at the Pebble Beach Pro Shop), so Maine’s era of austerity might be winding down. But here’s to Paul LePage for proving that increasing government spending is not the path to prosperity, and for using the left’s tactics against them in pursuit of tax reform.


Turks Tell U.S.: We Have Audio of a Journalist Being Tortured and Murdered in the Saudi Consulate

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:15 am

The Turks say they have audio of Jamal Khashoggi being beaten and tortured by the Saudis:

The Turkish government has told U.S. officials that it has audio and video recordings that prove Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul this month, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

The recordings show that a Saudi security team detained Khashoggi in the consulate after he walked in Oct. 2 to obtain an official document before his upcoming wedding, then killed him and dismembered his body, the officials said.

The audio recording in particular provides some of the most persuasive and gruesome evidence that the Saudi team is responsible for Khashoggi’s death, the officials said.

“The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” said one person with knowledge of the recording who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss highly sensitive intelligence.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”

A second person briefed on the recording said men could be heard beating Khashoggi.

Khashoggi is hardly the first innocent person Mohammed bin Salman has had killed. We’re sending weapons to a regime that created a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and conducted an air strike on a school bus. But, to paraphrase Stalin, if only one man dies of torture and is cut up with a bone saw, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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