October 13, 2016
By the Portland Press Herald Editorial Board
Gov. LePage held a news conference Wednesday to make clear that he misspoke when he said America needed “authoritarian” leadership.
It’s a relief to hear him say it, but it would be better if he felt it’s not something Maine needs either.
Because the governor is apparently OK with authoritarian rule at home as long as he’s the guy with the authority. During the same news conference in which he called President Obama a dictator for not cooperating with Congress, LePage said he would never issue voter-approved senior housing bonds unless the Legislature rewrote the law to suit him.
We agree that the Legislature should act, but not the way the governor wants. If the bonds have not been sold by the time the next Legislature is sworn in, its members should vote to move them without his approval.
And every candidate for the Legislature – Democratic, Republican and independent – should go on record now on whether they will stand up to LePage in 2017 on this issue, or if they will allow themselves to continue to be bullied.
At stake is a $15 million bond package that would be used to provide gap financing for 225 new affordable housing units for seniors, spread out across the state.
The bill passed the Maine House and Senate by strong bipartisan supermajorities and received 69 percent of the vote when it went to the people in the 2015 election.
The package would just begin to address an unmet need in Maine. A recent survey by the Maine Real Estate Managers Association estimates there are 10,000 people waiting for affordable senior housing to become available. That number is expected to climb to 15,000 by 2022 as the state’s population ages.
But only 39 units of affordable housing for seniors have been built this year. Waiting for a place to live can have terrible effects on a senior’s health and well-being.
Sitting on these bonds is government gridlock at its most destructive.
So far, 169 legislative candidates have signed a pledge circulated by the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, AARP, the Maine Council on Aging and other organizations, committing themselves to releasing the bonds as soon as possible.
Voters should look at the list to see if the candidates in their district have signed on, and if not, find out why not.
How willing lawmakers are to stand up against the governor now will tell us a lot about how productive the last two years of the LePage administration will be.
At his news conference, LePage said the fact that voters approved the bonds does not obligate him to issue them. “Did the people know what they were voting on?” he asked.
A democratic form of government demands that we always answer that question with a resounding “yes.” We may not agree with the outcome of every election, but we need leaders who always respect the results.
This is not a system of one-man rule. If LePage won’t issue the bonds, lawmakers should, and candidates should make it clear where they stand.
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