As a general rule, I prefer not to jump quickly into a discussion or debate during legislative sessions while they are happening. Instead, I tend to ponder issues for a day or two and think about what I might have said given the benefit of hindsight.

Such was the case during and since the debate in the state Senate regarding the proposal by the Democratic majority to abandon any attempt at bipartisan discussion and instead pass into law a document that will guide the spending of many billions of taxpayer dollars over the next two years. This was done without input from anyone who is not a Democrat. It was a remarkable, if not unfortunate moment of political theater.

Though I am no fan of bullies, I have always had more respect, in principle, for the one who walks up and punches me in the face, then the one who sneaks up and stabs me in the back. The simple fact of the matter is that Democrats have a majority in the Legislature. If they want to force things down the throats of the minority party, and in turn the half-million Mainers whom they represent, they have the votes to do it and they should simply, and honestly, say so.

Instead, Democrat after Democrat stood up and pretended that this was anything but a raw exercise of power the likes of which has rarely ever been used in Maine. As I listened, I began to wonder if there was a contest to say the phrase “state shutdown” as many times as possible. It was as if they believed that just by saying it over and over, the people of Maine would begin to believe it.

However, in all the meetings, Zoom calls, chats, phone calls, and emails that I have been part of, I never once heard the idea raised by a Republican. Yet, somehow, this supposedly secret, though nonexistent, plan justified the heavy-handed actions of the majority.

Anyone who doubts the imaginary nature of the “Great Republican Shut Down Plot” based on the notion that we simply cannot negotiate in reasonable good faith, need only look back to March 11, when the Supplemental Budget was passed by the Legislature with a margin of 172-1.

At the same time, one might consider the reality that I demanded the restoration of funding for veteran services that had been curtailed. Since most members were unaware that they had been reduced, this was an easy fix to which both parties quickly agreed. This is exactly the kind of solution that results from negotiations between the parties. Sadly, many other important issues like this one will not have the same hearing.

Sitting on the Senate floor listening to speech after speech, I could not help but wonder, how many of those forcefully justifying their words and votes had taken the time to read the 300-page budget document given to us little more than 48 hours prior. In any context, $8.3 billion is a lot of money. Passing a plan to spend it with just two days to study the details is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.

To justify this, Democrats repeated another mantra. “Back to Basics” was the most commonly used label for their proposal. Each time I heard it, I was reminded of the more than half-billion dollars in new spending that it includes. In all my years in Maine, I have never once known anyone who thinks that this kind of money represents something that could be described as just the basics.

Lastly, I was struck by the fact that this was clearly an effort by Democrats to silence the voice of the minority and suppress the votes of Republicans just because our ideas differ from theirs. At a time when the Democratic Party regularly rails against the exclusion of dissenting, minority voices in public discourse, and what they perceive as Republican efforts to suppress the votes of those they disagree with, it was remarkable to listen to the obvious disconnect in logic and principle.

In my view, these actions by the majority have done great harm to the process through which work gets done in the Legislature for the people of Maine. Sadly, I am afraid this is something that will not fade quickly away, and it was done solely to force through a budget that was likely to pass in much the same form had the usual push and pull of negotiating been allowed to run its biennial course.

Brad Farrin of Norridgewock, a Republican, is in his second term in the Maine Senate. He previously served two terms in the House of Representatives.


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