AUGUSTA – A review of Speaker Sara Gideon’s tenure at the helm of Maine’s lower legislative chamber show a leader dedicated to increasing spending, raising taxes, expanding or allowing controversial services, and enacting laws that are likely unpopular outside of the liberal enclaves of southern Maine.
ascended to Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives in 2016 after the previous
Speaker, Mark Eves was termed out of his seat. She had risen to a seat in the
Maine House from a spot on the Freeport Town Council, where she served after
moving to Freeport from New York.
Initially, as many politicians do, Gideon sought to publicly frame her objective as Speaker to be one of bipartisan leadership. In reality, her time at the helm of the Maine House has been one of intense partisanship, with her caucus opposing tax relief and demanding increased spending that drove the state budget to record levels and resulted, at one point, in a state government shutdown.
Gideon does not have an exhaustive list of legislative achievements, her
fingerprints are all over the two-year state budgets that have passed since
2016. Known for negotiating behind closed doors to come to final agreements on
those budgets, Gideon has leveraged whatever power she had available during
state budget negotiations to oversee a massive overall spending increase.
As the only member of current leadership to have a significant role in every budget going back to the start of her term as Speaker, she has overseen a nearly 20% increase spending from Maine’s budget battles during her time in charge of the Maine House.
battles included a state shutdown, controversial parliamentary maneuvers and
the threat of tax increases to spur state spending even higher, even when there
was little appetite in the Governor’s office or the Maine Senate for such
Not content to use her power to just implement spending increases whenever the opportunity arose, Speaker Gideon has also aggressively pursued a liberal social agenda that is anathema to people across broad swaths of rural Maine.
year, Gideon sponsored legislation to deregulate abortions. Serving as the
prime sponsor of a bill pushed by Janet Mills to repeal the law that mandated
only doctors could perform abortion procedures, among other services, she
successfully shepherded the law through the legislature and to Governor Mills’
desk for her signature.
which Gideon and Mills initially sold to the public as only allowing for non-physicians
to provide medicine to terminate pregnancies, actually made Maine only the
second state in the nation, following California, to allow non-physicians to
perform in-clinic abortions.
In her testimony to the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee on May 1, 2019, Speaker Gideon said that Maine’s physician-only abortion law was “outdated” and that repealing it was “the right thing to do.”
to the aforementioned law deregulating abortions, Gideon also managed to push
through an elaborate law that imposed a mandate that all private health
insurance plans sold in Maine cover abortion procedures, and then within the
same law, used the new mandate to justify providing taxpayer funded abortions
in the interest of equality.
But services that expanded abortions were not the only hot button issues dealing with death that Gideon would help expand. A supporter of previous efforts to expand physician assisted suicide in Maine, in the most recent legislative session, Gideon was able to muster the votes to push the latest “Death With Dignity” proposal through the House and to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk. With Mills’ signature, Maine became the ninth state to have a law on the books legalizing the practice of doctors assisting patients with ending their lives.
Financially, Gideon has not been shy about pushing to raise taxes on Mainers and those tax increases have not solely targeted “wealthy” Mainers as some liberal politicians are fond of doing.
In the most recent legislative session, Speaker Gideon cosponsored a proposal to add a tax to heating oil and gasoline that would have imposed a tax of about 40 cents per gallon when fully implemented. That proposal was shelved after a massive public outcry that Maine’s elderly and working-class residents would not be able to afford to heat their homes or travel to work in Maine’s frigid winters.
marquee proposal of the legislative session, Gideon proposed a tax increase on
the paychecks of virtually all Maine workers to cover a paid leave plan that
other New England states were working to create without any tax increases.
That proposal ran into problems starting with the bill’s public hearing before the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee when Speaker Gideon testified and requested that the committee increase the tax increase she had initially proposed, saying that the initial increase she had been promoting might not be enough to cover the costs.
Ultimately, Gideon’s proposal would result in a 10% to 14% increase in the income tax working Mainers pay. Stalled since the public hearing, the bill has been carried over for potential passage in the next session of the Maine Legislature.
Gideon also supported a proposal by self-described socialist Rep. Michael Sylvester (D – Portland) to allow Maine’s more than 400 municipalities to impose a local option sales tax. That bill passed the Maine House of Representatives but failed passage in the Maine Senate.
ally of Gideon’s, she has rewarded Rep. Sylvester, known for his Twitter handle
@SocialistSylvester, by appointing him to Chair the Legislature’s powerful Labor
and Housing Committee and then on May 14th, to the State Workforce Board.
Not shy only on the taxation side of the ledger, Speaker Gideon also kicked off the most recent legislative session proposing nearly $750 million in new debt through bond proposals. That total, had all the proposals been approved, would have nearly tripled Maine’s general obligation bond debt and cost taxpayers about $200 million in interest over the life of the bonds.
also supported rolling back many of the welfare reforms passed during the
LePage era of welfare reforms, including her recent vote to expand state
taxpayer-funded welfare benefits to non-citizens who have not yet even filed
applications for asylum in the United States.
That bill, like many others, has been carried over to a future session of the Maine Legislature.
Unlike the current crop of bills whose fate has yet to be determined, Speaker Sara Gideon’s legacy is that of a liberal who supports large spending and tax increases, and her support of an array of envelope-pushing social issues have left an indelible mark on Maine’s state finances and moral fabric.