Patterico's Pontifications

10/12/2018

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.

– JVW

33 Responses to “The Conservative Governor Who Fights Like a Progressive”

  1. Naturally the rabid left hates LePage because he does not self-censor and is therefore some kind of big ol’ meanie in their eyes.

    JVW (42615e)

  2. This is the same governor whose wife, Maine’s First Lady at the time, took a job as a waitress. (I don’t know if she still does it.)

    nk (dbc370)

  3. At the time I speculated that it was not strictly for the money. Judging from her husband, she seems to be a lady who enjoys feeding people.

    nk (dbc370)

  4. Hear, hear, Gov LePage, and JVW for an excellent post.

    PS to nk: She wanted to buy an SUV.

    DRJ (15874d)

  5. remember lepage won when democrats were following good government establishment liberals like hillary clinton. you know when they go low we go high crap of michelle obama. then 2016 discredited establishment good government liberalism that was finished off by kavenaugh to supreme court. hillary clinton unleashed the kraken this week no more civility. no more mr nice guy. all week fox has on democrats who normally call for civility now realize they have no future in the democrat party unless they go full che guevera. only a few tame fox house democrats now agree to civility.

    lany (9db996)

  6. I truly wish we could have LePage for a third term; The Democratic nominee,Janet Mills, is favored, and the NY Times just stooped to publish a hit piece on Republican Shawn Moody, placing all the lurid stuff in the first paragraph, and holding back all the exonerating material to the end of the article where it is never seen. Mills has already come out for increased gun control, and that may make the difference, at least in the Second District.

    Bruce Abbott (e895a4)

  7. slicked up and slimy Paul Ryan couldn’t even cut funding for NPR

    he couldn’t do it for America

    not even for daddy romney

    fiscal responsibility’s not part of his nature

    not even for dirty daddy romney

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  8. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the city council wants to know which of its contractors have ties to the NRA. There’s a conservation law operating here. More liberty in Maine, less liberty in L.A.

    Kevin M (d6cbf1)

  9. This is a man that should run for POTUS.

    Colonel Haiku (1fcc64)

  10. Good start of a profile. Need to learn more about him.

    NJRob (1d7532)

  11. He is an old-fashioned kind of Republican.

    nk (dbc370)

  12. A genuinely self-made man. One of eighteen children, who ran away from home when he was eleven and lived on the streets, but finished college with an MBA. And he looks like he went on a diet since the last photos I had seen of him.

    nk (dbc370)

  13. de Tocqueville and others pointed out that when the electorate figures out they can simply vote themselves benefits, it’s simply a matter of time before the treasury collapses. Now add in a virtually unlimited credit card? See ya.

    Ed from SFV (6d42fa)

  14. Yeah I’d be excited to see this man run for president.

    Dustin (4b80e8)

  15. Literally a Canuck (if he can dish, he better take) with the bilingue to match…would have been fun to have him negotiate USMCA with Trudeau in French.

    urbanleftbehind (469781)

  16. The age don’t help, but in 16 he would have been a VP prospect were the R stuck with the mailman or Rubes.

    urbanleftbehind (469781)

  17. Interesting bio of the man. Lucky for him, he lived his hard times before he was a societal Designated Victim and made something great of himself.

    Patricia (3363ec)

  18. A majority of Californians disapprove of Governor Paul LePage. (Yes, it’s like a rickroll but not as entertaining.)

    nk (dbc370)

  19. Thank you very much for this post. I find it very uplifting. I do hope he will run for POTUS. Thanks for putting him on my radar (such as it is).

    felipe (023cc9)

  20. Question how is this the same state that elected king and collins

    Narciso (fa3216)

  21. Apparently LePage didn’t get the memo that no other Republican but Trump has ever had the courage and fortitude to FIGHT, or the savvy to make great deals. Trump says as much himself, and Trump never lies (say the fans).

    Radegunda (b0ffbf)

  22. They gave Scott Walker the same grade (D) as Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown and Mark Dayton…WTF?

    Granted Walker got the equivalent of a D+ (49 points), while Brown and Dayton got D-‘s (41 points). But they gave Cuomo and Walker identical scores.

    Dave (9664fc)

  23. I at one time called him the Arpaio of the East.

    urbanleftbehind (469781)

  24. Dave (9664fc) — 10/13/2018 @ 9:41 am

    The jaded me expects this as a form of stats padding, so that certain claims can later be made that the opposing party, overall, is much worse than they really are, and that they, themselves, are better than they really are. Where they can ignore unfavorable percentages, to focus on favorable grades.

    felipe (023cc9)

  25. Might be an over-correct for the Foxconn incentive package in the case of Wisconsin Ranger.

    urbanleftbehind (469781)

  26. They gave Scott Walker the same grade (D) as Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown and Mark Dayton…WTF?

    You need to read the section on Walker. They acknowledge that he has done a great deal in his seven years to limit government spending and cut taxes, and they point out that he has mostly received “A” and “B” grades up until now. But last year, with flush tax receipts in the good economy and facing a tough reelection campaign this year, he agreed to a bunch of new spending, and Cato objects to that. He also gave away a bunch of tax incentives to land a big Chinese company plant in Wisconsin, and Cato rightly points out that the government shouldn’t be granting deals with major players that they aren’t willing to extend to minor players. But as they point out, the “D” is a one-year grade and should be balanced against the rest of Walker’s tenure.

    I’m still a big Scott Walker fan and hope he wins a third term, but I wish he hadn’t caved in to the idea that he had to “moderate” in order to win again this year.

    JVW (42615e)

  27. Appeasers deserve the quicksand they create.

    Ed from SFV (6d42fa)

  28. Great write up and great link – Cato report card.
    __ _

    Meanwhile, great line about the AZ senate race to replace Jeff Flake:

    “(winner gets the empty Senate seat, loser gets the empty suit)”

    harkin (adce92)

  29. With luck, under LePage, Maine can experience the same success as Kansas under Brownback.

    Davethulhu (434408)

  30. How many Blue State Blues examples will it take to shake you out of the delusion, Cthulhu?

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  31. Um…what the heck does #7 have to do with the topic here?

    Moderators, please feel free to add “slicked up” to the filter.

    I’m kind of on the lookout for a thread that doesn’t have that kind of hateful nonsense.

    Simon Jester (a6712e)

  32. this is a post about Rs who fight

    and Mitt Romney’s slicked up baby boy isn’t counted among that number

    and yet he had a long career and was even promoted to speaker (of the house)

    it’s interesting how far mere lip service to principles can take you

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  33. Lepage was a Cruz supporter Paul singer would haves nothing to do with him either.

    narciso (d1f714)

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