Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling, BDN Agree to Disagree bloggers. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Phil: Have I thanked you yet for the recent gift Maine Democrats gave Maine Republicans?

Ethan: I didn’t know we gave you a gift.

Phil: The gift of a majority budget.

Ethan: Well, that’s nice. I didn’t expect you to be so appreciative of that.

Phil: Well, of course I am appreciative. Because in 18 months not a single Republican will have to defend all the spending in that budget.

Ethan: You mean the spending on property tax relief, schools, public parks, roads, and cleaning up our environment.

Phil: I mean the $400 million in extra spending that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for once all the free money out of D.C. ends. And when everyone sees their property taxes still go up, like they are in my town (8.7 percent proposed increase in school spending!), they will see the fallacy of more Augusta spending meaning utopia at the local level.

Ethan: I am honestly glad Democrats made this move. Too often, Democrats allow Republicans to hijack the budget in the name of making it worse for Maine families, and we have to own their cuts. Like you, I am glad we will finally be able to make clear who is now fighting for whom. May the best party win.

Phil: Regardless of the 2022 politics, the bad news of this maneuver by Democrats is how much they have now poisoned the well of the state house. The budget is the one area everyone has agreed should be bipartisan. By skirting the requirement for a two-thirds vote, I’m hearing this session has already become bitter and toxic.

Ethan: Of course, passing a majority budget is not actually something new. Both parties have engaged in the practice over the years. But I’m afraid the bitter and toxic atmosphere you sense started after Republicans behaved so disingenuously on the supplemental budget.

Phil: Um, are you forgetting that the supplemental budget was actually bipartisan? Republicans fought hard for what they believed in, as did Democrats, and then both came up with a final compromise that everyone could agree with.

Ethan: Everyone except the four leaders of the Republican caucuses. Thank God for the rank and file standing up and saying enough is enough. But no way the House Speaker, Senate President and the governor could risk a shut down after that behavior.

Phil: Republicans would not let the state shut down on July 1 as suggested by your party. That was just a ruse to spend and not have to compromise with Republicans.

Ethan: Voters want action. They want good roads and safe schools. They want a clean environment and good-paying jobs. They want their vaccine so they can live their life. They will tune out partisan whining by Republicans over some legislative parliamentary maneuver.

Phil: People don’t like abusing power. Majority rules on most issues, and people understand that, but the budget is the most important document in the state house, and people want folks working together.

Ethan: Then you should have said that to Republicans in 2012 when they passed a budget without Democrats.

Phil: And what happened after Republicans pulled that maneuver? Democrats won back the State House and State Senate eight months later. I am not saying that was the only factor, but voters don’t like power grabs.

Ethan: Democrats won back the majorities in the State House because then-President Barack Obama swept back into office. If we lose either majority in 2022, it will not be based on our passing a majority budget, it will be based on how well President Joe Biden is doing in Washington.

Phil: All politics is local my friend. I predict voters will become frustrated with all this new spending especially when tax increases keep happening at the local level. And since the lines are now clear as to who is doing the spending, they will turn out to vote for the party that commits to tightening the belts.

Ethan: After this past year, people’s belts are tight enough after all the weight we put on.

Phil: Time to get in shape. Those who are pulling the economic wagon are looking for those riding it to get out and help pull.