Two men are back-to-back in front of a white background.
Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels. 

Phil: Hey Strim, did you hear how quiet it is?

Ethan: I’m in Portland. Nothing silent about these streets.

Phil: It was coming from Augusta.

Ethan: Quiet from Augusta? Well, yes. That’s because they adjourned this week.

Phil: Actually, I am referring to the quiet from Augusta that emanated over the entire session between Democrats and Republicans.

Ethan: Now that you mention it, it did seem more like a muffin club than a boxing club. Is that what you are referring to?

Phil: I am indeed. And in an election year no less!

Ethan: You’re right. No big blow-ups between Republicans and Democrats. No culture wars. No screaming accusations of taxes being raised, the environment being destroyed, or children being sacrificed to the capitalist/communist cabal. Why do you think that is?

Phil: I think it all comes down to a checkbook full of cash and elections in November. Compared to my time in the Maine Senate when the boxing match was about what to cut versus what tax to raise. 

Ethan: That is true. A family choosing where to eat out when you have a little extra money is always easier than a family having to decide what to sacrifice when times get hard. Although, lord knows, in my family, I could argue with my father forever on which flavor of ice cream to get when we had money for dessert.

Phil: Yes, with all the federal money from COVID, the rebound in tax revenue after the governor permitted businesses to let in customers again, and, of course, the continued economic growth from Maine becoming a preferred place to live post pandemic means team red and team blue can each order their preferred flavor of ice cream.

Ethan: While I think the budget gave away too much in tax rebates to people already making six figures, I am pleased it funded Gov. Janet Mills’ proposal for free community college, injected much needed cash into PFAS remediation, and gave a boost to child care workers

Phil: As I said, ice cream for everyone! I would have preferred a little more long-term fiscal responsibility like putting it in the rainy day fund or paying cash for projects instead of borrowing through bonds, or a cut in the income or sales tax by spreading the money out over five years.

Ethan: I do think your point about this being an election year is also interesting. Usually, the second session of the Legislature is filled with election-year grandstanding. Each side trying to gain points for November by running amendments that force the other side to take votes that will end up in a negative mailer (She voted to raise taxes! He voted against raising wages!).

Phil: Right. And with very little of that happening this year it tells me the minority party is feeling pretty good about their prospects for the fall, as we discussed last week.

Ethan: Well, it may also say that the majority party feels like they have the ammunition they need to hold their positions of power. But remember, Democrats control the House, Senate and Blaine House, and while we certainly don’t agree on everything, our squabbles are minor compared to our differences with Republicans.

Phil: Well, Democrats also control the House, Senate, and White House,so if that’s the recipe for quiet, Washington would be as calm as a canoe on Katahdin Lake.

Ethan: Actually, bringing a few Washington leaders for a paddle in Baxter would likely do some good for the nation.

Phil: Well, I definitely think some Washington leaders are up a creek without a paddle.