The second decade of the twenty-first century saw Maine facing challenges that seemed insurmountable to most politicians in Augusta. Just take a look back to where we were as the general election of 2010 approached.
dealing with massive bloated and unaccountable welfare programs; sky high
unemployment rates and crushing poverty; a state pension system unable to sustain
itself over the long term and a state regulatory apparatus seemingly focused on
restricting any meaningful economic growth or progress.
was consuming more and more of the state’s operating revenue. Hospitals across
Maine were on the verge of closing due to unpaid Medicaid bills reaching into
tens and hundreds of millions of dollars.
itself paralyzed or insisting on applying the same fixes that had already
failed to do little more than paper over serious threats to Maine’s long-term success.
watch the state they loved slip into the abyss, Maine Republicans nominated
Paul LePage, the hard-charging Mayor of Waterville and General Manager of the iconic
Marden’s chain of stores as their candidate in the 2010 Gubernatorial election.
locally for holding the line on property tax rates and demanding government
find ways to do more with less – as well as for taking the fight to the front
page of the local papers to rally public support to his side – LePage burst
onto the scene with a style that would define the coming decade.
bringing down tremendous public pressure on himself or the political wrath of
taxpayers on his opponents in the name of reforms he felt were correct – LePage
unabashedly promised to fix what ailed Maine. And voters gave him a shot.
were made and promises were kept. The rest is history.
system was reformed before it passed into insolvency. Maine saw meaningful
reforms to state welfare programs that had long been ignored despite ample
evidence of fraud and abuse in the system. A regulatory reform law was passed
to streamline Maine’s regulatory system and encourage permitting and growth.
dropped steadily and paychecks grew, both from private sector pay raises and
from income tax cuts passed by the Maine Legislature, but crafted and signed by
debt was reduced. LePage cut a deal (despite serious opposition from Democrats)
to pay off Maine’s hospital debts with bonds secured by liquor revenue.
found jobs and fewer needed welfare. Revenue to the state of Maine grew with
the economy, despite forecasts from LePage’s opposition that his tax cuts would
break the budget. In fact, Paul LePage’s policy reforms ended the rolling budget
crisis Maine had under Governor John Baldacci.
Governor, Paul LePage upset a lot of people. His supporters would likely tell
you they expected it, that they wanted him to, or it just needed to happen.
Just as the
ride-sharing service Uber has disrupted the taxi industry or Airbnb has
disrupted the hotel industry, Paul LePage was sent to disrupt the status quo in
a bloated, wasteful and unaccountable state government. He succeeded beyond
what most any voter could have expected when they first voted for him.
Paul LePage, Mainers now have a fighting chance with their government and an example
of how a small-town Mayor can take on an entire behemoth of state government
and make meaningful change.
Paul LePage was the man that hard-working Maine voters sent to stand up to what they saw as bullies in state government – and stand up he did, every day. Without fear of public opposition or concern for how those political elite or establishment insiders felt about him, he charged ahead.
Here we are
nearly a year after Governor Paul LePage left office, and the first comment
most Mainers will make when his name comes up is related to whether he will be
back in 2022 to run against Governor Janet Mills.
is evidence of the indelible mark that Paul LePage left on the state of Maine.
From the LePage agenda, which restored fiscal integrity and sanity to Maine state government, to the LePage political doctrine of fearless pursuit of what you believe is right, this was the decade of Paul LePage. Maine will never be the same, but our children and grandchildren now have a better chance to prosper here in this state we love.
fearless, no-holds-barred style, willingness to disrupt the status quo and
smart policies that fixed a lot of Maine’s problems, Paul LePage is the Maine
Person of the Decade.
Paul LePage did it his way. Who knows, it sounds like he might be back to do it his way again in 2022.