Political analysts and former state senators Ethan Strimling and Phil Harriman discuss work legislators still have to do before session ends.

Phil: An old wives’ tale says, if you wait till after Memorial Day, you can safely plant the garden without fear of a killing frost. Maybe that is why the Legislature waits till the temperature rises before they vote on the most important bills.

Ethan: Sorry, but you’re gonna have to explain that analogy, as I (and I expect many of our readers) have no clue what you are talking about.

Phil: The time is now upon legislators to finish germinating the seeds of economic hope that the people elected them to plant, and go home to let us enjoy the splendid Maine summer without fear of them voting on something that is analogous to a killing frost.

Ethan: Have you been getting too much sun again?

Phil: I am simply saying I hope the Legislature adjourns soon, because I fear what lies ahead.

Ethan: Why didn’t you just say that? You do know there are still hundreds of bills that need to be acted upon, including the mama bear of them all — the two-year state budget with a hefty dose of tax reform tossed in.

Phil: Ah yes; hundreds of bills, long hours, patience running short. Perfect timing for wily legislators and their aiding and abetting lobbyists to get pet bills passed in the cacophony of finishing the session. While most legislators are tired and want to go home, some are just getting ready to bring home the bacon.

Ethan: This is when being a skilled legislator really matters. It is also when we see the greatest shortcomings of term limits as the newbies get spun every which way before they realize they just voted for some Cate Street deal that will cost taxpayers millions for nothing in return.

Phil: Kinda like in the land of the blind, the one-eyed woman is queen.

Ethan: More like the seeds of future political power are taking root right about now. While everyone is focused on the dust-up between the governor and the tribes, and wringing their hands over passing a budget to keep state government running, some will be tilling the soil for a better harvest later.

Phil: I knew you had a gardening analogy in you. But how right you are. That’s how we end up with state offices being built or leased in curious locations, unscheduled road improvements, special lobstering rules, new programs at higher education campuses, funding for pedestrian and hiking pathways and special employment opportunities for former legislators, just to name a few.

Ethan: What’s wrong with pedestrian and hiking pathways?

Phil: Nothing, as long as you put them where people actually hike and walk. You know, as opposed to building a bridge to nowhere.

Ethan: All well and good, but let’s focus on the bear I mentioned earlier. Recall that I predicted in January that our divided Legislature may not be able to find a budget compromise before the end of June, resulting in a state shutdown. Well, June is upon us and divided we remain. No budget compromise. No tax reform compromise. What do you see happening to prevent the shutdown I hope will not occur?

Phil: Senate Republicans and Gov. Paul LePage have coalesced around lowering income taxes and not finding ingenious ways to take more of people’s money for state government to spend. Meanwhile your party is talking about tax reform as long as it actually fuels more state spending.

Ethan: Mainers certainly feel taxed enough, but we also demand fiscal responsibility and don’t like giving money away to people who don’t need it. The Republican plans both blow huge holes in the budget and hand buckets of cash to people who are very well off in this economy. The Democratic plan is fully paid for and gives the relief to the middle class.

Phil: Yeah, fully paid for, plus an extra hundred million for good measure. Democrats will have to come back to reality and not try to squeeze Maine people out of more of their hard-earned money. Otherwise a government shutdown may occur, as Republicans heard the voters loud and clear when they said they are taxed enough already.

Ethan: I guess you missed the votes when we also said our schools must be funded and our property taxes cannot be jacked up. As you and I discussed in an earlier column, compromise on tax reform will occur only when both sides agree to a tax package that is revenue neutral (neither raises new revenue nor creates deficits) and that focuses relief on the middle class.

Phil: Isn’t that the agenda your party espoused during your reign of power for 40 years until Gov. LePage was elected? How come your party’s budget philosophies over the decades have left Maine with so few opportunities to build a career?

Ethan: That’s funny, I could have sworn Maine’s economic divide has never been worse than the last five years during Republican domination of the Legislature and Blaine House.

Phil: Listen to us. Now we are sounding like the tired, hot-tempered legislators I mentioned earlier. Talking politics post-Memorial Day brings out the worst in the best of us.

Ethan: Imagine what July might bring if these folks don’t get a budget done.

Phil Harriman is a former Republican state senator from Yarmouth. Ethan Strimling is a former Democratic state senator from Portland. They can be contacted on Facebook at Agree to Disagree or Twitter: @senpeh and @ethan6_2.

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