If it’s Christmas in Augusta, is it time to recall the bums?

Gov. Paul LePage's Christmas Tree in Augusta. Christopher Cousins | BDN

Gov. Paul LePage’s Christmas Tree in Augusta. Christopher Cousins | BDN

Mike: Well Cynthia, it looks like the House GOP negotiating tactic worked. They asked for a compromise that addressed some of their concerns, received it, and the “shutdown” boogeyman went away. Now if only the Legislature hadn’t left the negotiating until the 11th hour…

Cynthia: The boogeyman may be gone, but the Grinch is lurking under the bed.

Tell me, Mike, was it House Republicans who held out for income tax cuts for the middle class, $80 million in new education funding and government-sponsored anti-poverty programs like the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit?

And what about ending the so-called “welfare cliff” that people faced when working their way out of poverty? Democrats just call the fix in the budget bill good policy, but go ahead — spin it so House Republicans can save face and call it “welfare reform.”

And, seriously, what’s with the Christmas tree?

Mike: The “Christmas tree” is all the goofy little things hung onto the bill at the end. A hundred thousand dollars here, five hundred there — it’s the pork everyone purportedly opposes.

But believe me, ending the welfare cliff is even more popular than Team USA. Call it “welfare reform,” “workfare,” or “manna from Democrats” — it is good policy. And the EITC and standard deduction changes both help bolster it by reducing tax disincentives to work while still giving Mainers an overall tax cut.

Cynthia: Good policy? Tax cuts? Manna? No wonder the governor will veto the bill.

And just think of all the goofy little things that can be the angel pig at the top of our tree! The Alexander “report” or the Cate Street Capital corporate giveaway are just two of many excellent choices.

Mike: The governor was pretty clear he thought Maine had an opportunity to really reinvent our tax code. If the Legislature had not governed by press release for the last six months and instead negotiated like they did over the past week, they might have enacted some real, systemic tax reform. Instead, they cobbled together incremental progress at the last minute.

So here’s what will happen: the governor will veto the budget, the veto will be overridden, and then Paul LePage will take his tax argument to the streets. He’s winning this debate so far — why else would Democrats cave to House GOP demands?

Cynthia: Mike, you are telling me things LePage is gonna do for me, but I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see.

Paul LePage is only “winning” the debate of, Who’s worse? A governor who throws bombs to the tune of a Doobie Brothers song dressed up as Santa, or legislative leaders who cut deals in secret?

And tax the peanuts but not the peanut butter on your manna.

Mike: You know, if forced to choose, I would normally prefer government that is effective and opaque rather than dysfunctional and transparent. But I’m with you and Mal Leary on this one — the secrecy went too far. We deserve to know who pushed the peanut butter tax. Did the Nutella lobby get to them? Thank goodness Maine Revenue Services rode to the rescue.

Cynthia: Oh my God. If Maine Revenue Service is our gallant knight on a steed, things are worse than I thought.

In fact, if all our elected officials can accomplish in Augusta is passing whacko gun laws, handing out millions of dollars to corporate thieves and pulling up the lifeline for immigrants and poor families, I say throw the bums out.

Remember when I sponsored legislation to create a public process to recall elected leaders in Maine? Well it got killed, but an “independent” guy just suggested it so maybe we’ll get some traction.

Mike: You think the campaign cycle is perpetual now? Pass a “recall” bill and see what happens. We’ll be voting every year on who sits in Augusta. But while impeachment would make good TV, there aren’t really any grounds for it against the governor — publicity stunts aren’t a crime.

Although as a transparency advocate, do you think the Legislature can serve themselves with papers for violating the Freedom of Access Act? Or are they an amalgamation of Nixon, Louis XIV, and Judge Dredd — when they do something, it isn’t illegal, because they are the state and the law.

Cynthia: Three lawmakers who identify as kings should crash the LePage Christmas pageant bearing gifts of a veto override, impeachment papers, and a recall bill. There’s a lot under wraps we don’t know about.

And can legislators serve themselves? Sure. They do it all the time.

Mike: And I think that is the root of the governor’s objection. Let’s stay tuned.