The Legislature has packed up and left Augusta, and there is a perceptible sigh of relief emanating from the building.

But who are the most relieved? Legislators anxious to go home? The executive branch, happy to have the Legislature out of their hair? Or the rest of us, thankful to see a very rancorous session come to an end?

As a former legislator who has been out for a while, one can grow a bit nostalgic for those final, late night sessions, where there is a certain amount of camaraderie and coming together that builds, whiling away the hours with colleagues between votes, waiting for “paper” to move back and forth between the House and Senate.

However, I snap out of it and hold my nostalgic feelings in check because this was not a legislative session that was easy to watch, and I am certainly not missing the animosity that persisted throughout.

The most painful thing to watch has been the relationship of Gov. Paul LePage and the Legislature. I am aware in politics that everything is a two-way street, but the governor appears to have a complete lack of respect for the institution of the Legislature and the built-in, statutory responsibilities that it has.

It started in the early days of his administration when he opposed the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee scrutinizing his budget. It continued to the latter days when he sidestepped appointments to commissions and boycotted confirmation hearings because legislative committees don’t “respect” his nominees.

And now legislators are “socialists” when they disagree with him.

The governor’s appeal to many is that he wants to run the state like a business. Clearly, in his former business life he had final say about everything. Well, democracy is not autocracy and decisions about the well-being of 1.3 million citizens are not made around a corporate board table.

Granted, the work of government could surely be streamlined through use of some proven business models. But if the drafters of our state Constitution wanted a governor’s decisions to all be slam dunks there would be no requirements for legislative review of budgets or confirmation of key policy positions in the cabinet.

The governor’s disdain for the Legislature unfortunately fuels the opinions of many citizens. It was always so discouraging to work so hard (3,200 households visited in my first campaign) to get elected for a position that so many people reviled. Branded as a “politician,” I thought of myself as more of a “public servant.”

Going door-to-door, I found a surprising number of people who confused state legislators with Congress, an even more loathed group. Like Congress, state legislators were thought to have big salaries, cushy lifetime benefits and nice offices with staff.

Sorry to say that offices are only available for leaders in the Legislature and most House members share 1/13th of a staff member.

Moreover, salaries are hardly attractive: about $24,000 for the two-year session (with $38 a day for lodging, mileage and tolls, and $32 a day for meals). Health insurance is not lifetime and retirement benefits are quite modest.

If you are conscientious and good at what you do as a legislator, you also work hard during unpaid breaks and summers on constituent and community service.

I actually enthusiastically agree with the governor on his proposal to increase the governor’s salary, reduce size of the Legislature, and increase legislative salaries.

I voted to reduce the size of the Legislature repeatedly. While I sympathized with upcountry colleagues who feared their vast legislative districts growing even larger, we just have too many legislators for the size and population of our state. If huge western states with smaller legislatures can figure it out, we can too.

A diverse and representative Legislature will depend on decent salaries. I have been trying to recruit good people to run for office for the past few years and have been rebuffed frequently because of salaries. People with families to raise or businesses to sustain cannot afford the financial hit of public service.

We are the oldest state in the union, but do we really want a high proportion of legislators to be near-retirement baby boomers — 57 percent, versus 27 percent in the Maine population as a whole. Aren’t there many other voices and viewpoints that are needed?

Let’s hope the rancor and name-calling of this session have not scared away good legislative candidates. And let’s hope the fall elections bring in a new and varied group of public servants — despite the financial constraints — who can work effectively, even with the governor.

Lisa Miller, of Somerville, is a former legislator who served on the Health and Human Services and Appropriations and Financial Affairs committees.

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