Could LePage have prevented a Republican split on taxes?

And now there are three.

Gov. LePage put out and has been touting his tax plan across Maine. Democrats then presented their “Better Deal” plan. Republicans in the Appropriations Committee now have another version.

Certain key elements of the GOP plan are described in an article by Scott Thistle, and involve differences in income tax rates, sales taxes, the estate tax, and revenue sharing.

(Rob Poindexter, the communications director for the Maine House Republicans says Thistle’s piece is inaccurate.)

After the parties negotiate, the Legislature will probably pass a budget LePage vetoes but then passes without his signature.

Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Maine Heritage Policy Center luncheon at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Photo credit: Gabor Degre | BDN

Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Maine Heritage Policy Center luncheon at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Photo credit: Gabor Degre | BDN

Could LePage have prevented this split with his party on taxes?

Yes, if LePage had campaigned on this plan.

When LePage ran for re-election, he mentioned income taxes, but never said he would broaden the sales tax, zero out revenue sharing and drop the homestead exemption for people under 65.

Now, that’s probably because that package would not have been particularly popular, and would have made LePage’s reelection more challenging and thus less likely.

It’s anywhere from ironic to unfair that LePage criticized Mike Michaud for not laying out how he’d finance all his proposals when LePage was to turn around and reveal a surprising tax plan only after his election.

What legislators are considering

Often legislators face party pressures, and Republicans surely have been pressured to stick with the governor.

Simultaneously, legislators have their own views about public policy and are accountable to their own constituents.

Nearly all got into office with a higher percentage of the vote. Many got a much higher percentage than LePage. The checks and balances design gives them a place to stand, should they want to stand against the chief executive.

Maine people seem to be most concerned with property tax increases. At least that’s what a lot of candidates told me people wanted to talk about, when they talked to them about taxes at their doors.

Still, if LePage had campaigned on the plan and won, he could have claimed a mandate for it.

Making mandate claims

The word “mandate” comes from the Latin mandare, to command. Used in politics, it suggests the people want the policies the candidate supported. In reality, voters don’t necessarily support everything their candidate stood for. However, mandate claims carry more weight when an issue was high-profile and there were clear differences between the candidates.

It makes no sense to claim a mandate for a policy you never deigned to tell the voters about.

If LePage had forthrightly campaigned on the tax plan he unveiled only after being sworn in for a second term, the mandate claim could have been made.

And that would have made a GOP split less likely.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.