The BDN will help you pick the right soundtrack for LePage’s State of the State swan song

Good morning from Augusta, where if you’re like us — we hope for your sake you’re not like us — you’re brimming in eager anticipation of Gov. Paul LePage’s State of the State address tonight.

We think a lot about what the substance of the speech will be and how it will shape his final months in office. In fact, we thought so much about it that we wrote most of it down for you in our nifty preview of the governor’s final address. It doesn’t include what color tie he’ll don for the 7 p.m. speech (it’ll be red, 100 percent, you heard it here first) (or blue) and whether the state of the state of Maine is strong (we’re betting he says “stronger than in 2010”).

That will get you all set up to watch, but that’s only the beginning of what we have for you. We hope figure skating or curling isn’t on, but the BDN will also stream the speech live on our homepage, keep a running live blog for instant reactions and context, and then we’ll shift to analysis mode on Wednesday because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about LePage: what he says needs analyzing. Until then, here’s your soundtrack.

LePage unveils more moderate bill to fight student debt

After losing a fight with fellow Republicans over loan forgiveness, his new proposal would provide zero-interest loans to cover student debt. The governor has quietly rolled out a proposal to borrow $50 million to set up a new fund for zero-interest student loans and loan consolidation and refinancing rate reductions for certain Maine residents who live and work here for five years. It would have to be approved by voters if the Legislature endorses it. It’s less aggressive than the $40 million loan forgiveness program that LePage failed to pass amid Republican opposition in 2017. Rep. Martin Grohman, I-Biddeford, is sponsoring the new bill, which we may hear more about tonight.

Today in A-town

The House and Senate are in this morning. You can check out their calendars here and here. Three new bills from LePage are being introduced today in the House calendar, including the student debt bill. Another looks like a simple $600,000 funds transfer between accounts in the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the third would exempt veterans and people who have completed firearms safety from hunter safety courses. All three are scheduled to be sent into the committee process today.

For the first time in a while, there are a number of bills up for enactment. The five bills up for final votes today are mostly minor. One in the House would create a special license plate to support the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Another in the Senate would conform Maine water quality standards to the federal Clean Water Act.

Reading list

  • An upstart company wants to revive a short-lived Maine state flag. In 1901, Maine adopted its first state flag. It was simple, with a pine tree and a blue star on a white background. Seven years later, the state changed to present-day flag with a state seal on a blue background. But the new Maine Flag Company wants the old flag to make a comeback and has already sold 79 copies out of its Portland studio.
  • Maine’s Republican congressman and environmental groups have concerns about President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District said while he supports the president’s focus on defense and infrastructure, he’s concerned about “drastic reductions” proposed for environmental and conservation programs. Environmental groups are even hotter about those. The $4 trillion budget proposal that Trump unveiled Monday would rack up $7.2 trillion in national debt over the next 10 years if it is adopted by Congress. Nationally, many influential conservatives don’t like that.
  • A former Bath Iron Works union official stole $280,856 to feed an opioid addiction. Ryan Jones of Biddeford, a former treasurer for Local S6 of the shipyard’s Machinists Union, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay that amount of restitution Monday by a judge in U.S. District Court. Jones pleaded guilty in September 2017 to embezzlement of union funds. His attorney said he and his partner used the money to feed alcohol and drug addictions.

Condiments behind bars

Former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, a Republican from Perry, phoned in to WVOM this morning, mostly to blast LePage for closing Downeast Correctional Facility.

In an apparent effort to scale back the tension, radio host Ric Tyler asked Raye if he had ever smuggled some of his family’s famous Maine mustard into the dining hall when he ate there as a guest.

Raye said he did not, but that he also refused to eat any other brand of mustard offered there, instead defaulting to ketchup when forced to make a condiment choice. Here’s his soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.