Maybe minimum-wage workers will get a raise.

Maybe there will be a major tax reform bill that drastically lowers property taxes, while eliminating sales tax exemptions for certain businesses.

Maybe 60,000 low-income Mainers will gain access to MaineCare health insurance coverage.

These are the kinds of proposals that are likely to surface when the 127th Legislature convenes in December. The agenda that will dominate the legislative session — be it taxes, personal income, education, business or environmental regulations — hinges on whether Republicans or Democrats gain control of the State House, who funded their campaigns and to a large extent who captures the Blaine House.

All 186 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs. That includes 35 in the Senate, where there are now 19 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent, plus 151 in the House, where there are now 88 Democrats, 57 Republicans, four independents and two empty seats.

Interest groups are making investments in both the State House and gubernatorial races. As of Monday, political action committees representing a variety of interests had already spent nearly $4 million. While $3.6 million has been directed toward the gubernatorial race, nearly $400,000 has been funneled into key legislative races that could determine which party controls the State House. In 2012, many of the same groups spent $3.6 million attempting to persuade voters in the legislative races.

Given the level of investment, the same groups will ultimately have some influence after Election Day.

If Republicans seize the State House, a tax-cutting, small government agenda will have a better chance of advancing — especially if Republican Gov. Paul LePage wins a second term. The Republican Governors Association, bankrolled by assorted fossil fuel and industrial interests, has already spent $1.8 million assisting the governor’s re-election bid.

Interest groups that back Republican candidates successfully pushed a variety of education reforms — such as publicly funded virtual charter schools — and other initiatives designed to shrink the size of government and create a more relaxed regulatory environment during LePage’s first term.

LePage has unsuccessfully sought legislation that restricts or diminishes the collective bargaining rights of labor unions, but those efforts were halted during his first term — first by a Republican-controlled Legislature and later by a Democrat-controlled one. But right-to-work legislation could regain momentum if Republicans sweep the State House this year.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett didn’t get too specific about what a Republican victory might deliver should the party repeat its historic 2010 victory. However, he talked about “unrest and unhappiness from the people” with Democrats in charge. In particular, Bennett said Mainers were seeking an overhaul of the welfare system.

“I think it carries in most (legislative districts),” he said. “I think it’s a very powerful issue across most of the state.”

If Democrats maintain control of the Legislature and LePage wins re-election, expect the next two years to look a lot like 2013 and 2014: lots of partisan rhetoric, but also some quiet collaboration among lawmakers on big-ticket items, such as the state’s $6.3 billion budget. That’s what happened in 2013, when Democrats and enough Republicans came together to override LePage’s budget veto and avoid a government shutdown.

Look for a completely different tone if Democrats keep the Legislature and Democratic U.S. Rep Mike Michaud defeats LePage and independent Eliot Cutler. In 2013, Democratic lawmakers pushed a variety of bills that would likely be enacted with Michaud in the governor’s office.

Some of the proposals are part of the Democratic electoral platform, including an increase in the state’s minimum wage and requiring employers to provide some level of paid sick leave for employees. (A similar proposal was just signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown.) The proposals are supported by labor unions, which have taken a keen interest in Michaud’s candidacy and that of the Democratic legislative candidates, providing financial resources and support for door-to-door canvassing operations.

Unions have distributed money to various PACs backing Michaud and legislative candidates. Maine Forward, a progressive PAC that has spent more than $704,000 on television ads supporting Michaud and attacking LePage, is largely bankrolled by labor interests, including the Democratic Governors Association. The top contributors to the DGA are national labor organizations.

On the education front, Michaud and Democrats will likely face pressure to address publicly funded charter schools and virtual schools. During the last legislative session Democrats made several attempts to establish a moratorium on virtual schools and block efforts to expand the maximum number of charter schools.

Those positions are backed by the organizations that are funding Michaud’s bid for the Blaine House and Democrats’ attempt to hold majorities in the Legislature.

The PAC Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools spent more than $172,000 on legislative contests in 2012. The same group, funded by public teacher unions, has spent $70,000 on the gubernatorial race.

Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said Democrats’ legislative agenda isn’t exactly a secret. However, he said the agenda doesn’t reflect the interests of groups that are putting money into the election.

“I don’t think it’s related to who is funding our campaigns,” he said. “It’s about our values. The groups that support us share our values. It’s not about access or contributions; it’s because we’re all rowing in the same direction.”

Michaud’s agenda includes other proposals that would likely face resistance in a Republican-controlled Legislature, including an expansion of Medicaid, or MaineCare, to provide health coverage for approximately 60,000 low-income Mainers.

If Cutler is elected governor, the legislative agenda may be more difficult to predict. Democrats may find that he is sympathetic to some of their priorities, but Republicans could benefit from his position on certain business-related issues, such as workers’ compensation policies.

Cutler has a sweeping tax reform proposal that resembles a plan introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in 2013, which centers on reducing property taxes by expanding the sales tax base.

Cutler has also proposed detailed plans for education, energy and social services. His ability to build coalitions with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders would likely determine what proposals can gain traction in the Legislature. Many of Cutler’s personal initiatives align with measures supported by Democrats, who could make policy gains with him in the Blaine House.

Cutler said it doesn’t matter which party would be in control of the Legislature because he could provide “political shelter” to centrists from both sides. “The idea that a Republican or Democrat elected governor can somehow pull sufficient members of both parties to the middle and work with each other to get stuff is done is, I think, naive,” he said.

Steve Mistler — 791-6345

[email protected]

Twitter: stevemistler

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