Maine used to have a governor. Now we have something else. Let’s call Paul LePage “the ungovernor.”

Give him a bill, he leaves it unsigned. Give him a bond, you’ll find it unissued. Appointments go unfilled, seats on boards and commissions unoccupied and their work is left undone.

All Republicans say they want smaller government, but LePage has taken it to a whole new level. This isn’t just small government, it’s a government under attack from its own leader — it’s ungovernment.

In May, the ungovernor took back dozens of appointments to state boards and commissions after the Legislature’s Energy Committee did the very non-ungovernmental thing of asking a Public Utilities Commission nominee some hard questions.

Asked by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s Mal Leary this week about the withdrawn appointments, LePage said that everyone can keep waiting. He might fill two judge openings that were created to step up drug prosecutions when the Legislature comes back in January, but that’s it.

“Too much hatred between the Legislature and the executive branch, so there is a cool-down period until January, and then I will consider putting the judges in. That’s the only ones I will consider putting in,” he said.

(For you political scientists out there, “hatred between the Legislature and the executive branch” is what we used to call “checks and balances.”)

So, he will no longer enable the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council, the Midcoast Regional Development Authority and many more such subversive groups as the standoff with the Legislature sprawls into 2016.

If you are wondering how this ungoverning plays out, we have a couple of good examples.

Last week, the administration’s representatives on the Land for Maine’s Future Board failed to appear for a meeting, denying the board the quorum it needed to conduct business.

This came after LePage refused to issue $11.5 million in voter-approved bonds and refused to spend $2 million in already appropriated money, putting more than 30 land conservation projects in jeopardy. These deals tend to be delicate partnerships, involving local governments, nonprofits and private individuals as well as the LMF funds. Without the promised state money, most of the deals will disappear. That’s ungoverning.

So is this: In 2014, lawmakers passed a program (over the ungovernor’s veto) to provide state funds to support county jails. But LePage refused to fill vacancies on the Board of Corrections, preventing the board from meeting. As a result, the money sat in the state’s bank account and the counties were out of luck.

You can see where this is headed: The Real Estate Commission won’t be able to issue real estate licensees. The Gambling Control Board won’t be able to control gambling. The Maine Milk Commission won’t be able to set milk prices. The Quality of Place Commission won’t be able to do whatever it is that it does.

It’s hard to believe that we are not even through the first year of the ungovernor’s second term. Assuming that he’s not going to be impeached for withholding state money from Good Will-Hinckley to force the organization to unhire House Speaker Mark Eves, LePage is going to be around for a while.

Democrats don’t like it, but there’s not much they can do about it except shake their heads. Legislative Republicans could decide that governing is better than ungoverning, but that would take standing up to LePage, and that is something that most of them have been unwilling to do.

Will they act like Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who this year worked with Democrats to pass a compromise budget over the ungovernor’s veto? Or will they be like Rep. Michael Timmons, R-Cumberland, who told his town’s councilors that he changed his vote on a bill to release the LMF bonds because he was told that taking power away from LePage would be a bad idea?

After the last election, Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said LePage would be remembered as another Ed Muskie who would usher in a generation of one-party rule the way Muskie established Democratic dominance in the 1950s.

With all due respect to Bennett, he may be selling LePage short.

By wielding the power of the governor against the very government he runs, he could be remembered as the un-George Washington, or the un-Abraham Lincoln, leaving a legacy of division and dysfunction that will last long beyond his term in office.

I’m not sure if that’s good for Republicans, but it might be an opportunity for a new party: the un-Republicans.

And if they are still pouring sand into the gears of government 40 years from now, we’ll have the first ungovernor and his enablers to thank.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor at the Portland Press Herald. Email at: [email protected]

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