It is reported in all the statewide newspapers on the front pages that the governor threatened to veto the budget.

The year, however, was 1995, not 2011, and the man issuing the threats was Angus King.

Hastily and behind closed doors, the Legislature had amended the budget on the floor of the House to include an income tax cut to start the following two-year budget cycle. That meant it wasn’t funded nor did anybody have a clue how it would be funded.

Rather than face a shutdown of state government, King signed the flawed budget and committed to address the impacts of the income tax cut when preparing the next two-year budget, when the income tax cut would have to be funded.

When it came time to finance it, however, the tax cut was repealed — but that’s another story for another day.

The real moral of this story is that new governors make mistakes. It was a mistake for King to threaten to veto a budget that arrived on his desk with greater than a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

That margin made it veto-proof, and it was a battle that didn’t need to be engaged until the bill came due two years later. It certainly wasn’t worth shutting down state government over a fiscal impact that wouldn’t be felt for another two years.

A few weeks ago, all the statewide newspapers again reported that a new governor was threatening to veto the budget if the Legislature made changes to the fiscal blueprint he’d proposed.

This time, the threat is from Gov. Paul LePage, and it’s still a mistake.

First, if a budget gets to his desk in time to take effect on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal cycle, then at least two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate had voted for it. That would be both Democrats and Republicans voting in the super-majority, and it would be enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Beyond the futility of the vote count, LePage also will learn the hard lesson all governors learn. Governors propose budgets; the Legislature enacts budgets.

There’s never been a state budget that didn’t bear the fingerprints of the Legislature. That’s its job. The Legislature is a co-equal branch of state government, not a rubber stamp for the Executive Branch.

Unlike King, who was an independent, LePage has his own party in the majority of both the House and the Senate, exponentially strengthening his hand. Collaborating, rather than threatening, would be the way to play that strength.

While LePage’s service to the city of Waterville should be applauded, the lessons he learned there are not always useful in his role as governor.

As mayor of Waterville, LePage was known to strategically threaten vetoes even after the Waterville Council took action on a 7-0 vote. Perhaps he thinks he can do that as governor.

Thanks to a charter change LePage supported, Waterville’s mayor is a figurehead with the opportunity to set tone and direction, but isn’t charged with the same governance responsibilities that are expected from the chief elected official of a strong mayor municipality or of the chief executive of the state.

As mayor, LePage generally heard high praise for his effective use of the bully pulpit, that office’s most effective policy-changing tool.

LePage needs other tools as governor. Trying to bully the Legislature to accept his budget proposals exactly as he proposed them won’t get the job done.

Working hand in hand and collaboratively with the Legislature, deploying his staff and Cabinet to sit through policy committee review of his proposals is a slog, but it’s some of the most important work a governor has to do.

Getting a budget in shape to get enough Democrats to join the Republican majorities to get the necessary two-thirds vote is going to be a challenge. It guarantees that some of LePage’s pension, welfare and tax proposals will change, perhaps significantly.

Learning to bend, without folding, to the collective will and wisdom of the legislative branch is a tough lesson all new governors must learn.

Kay Rand is former chief of staff for Maine independent Gov. Angus King.

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