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Good morning. This is Maine Governor Paul LePage.

The budget debate in Wisconsin has garnered national attention for the rhetoric, rallies and tactics employed by opponents of work place reform. It has gotten ugly in Wisconsin and it looks like the spectacle is headed here.

I support anyone’s right to rally and advocate for their position. We are all Americans and, thanks to the military, we have every right to stand up for our beliefs.

What I do not understand is how an elected official would flee their state to shutdown the legislative process. Nor do I understand how teachers could call out sick and shutdown a school to attend a rally.

Here in Maine every state elected official takes an oath to support the Constitution of Maine and the United States. They also must swear to faithfully discharge, to the best of their abilities, the duties incumbent on them.

State Representative Diane Russell of Portland made such a publicized trip to Wisconsin this week to join in the political spectacle despite having legislative work to do here in Maine.

I have noted her criticism of me, but will leave it to the people of House District 120 in Portland to determine if the good representative is living up to her oath to faithfully discharge her elected duties from nearly 1,300 miles away.

As the debate over workplace rules heats up here, I hope we all remember our oaths of office and do our very best to respect the people and institution we serve.

Later today a moveon.org rally has been scheduled for the statehouse grounds in Augusta. Organizers of today’s event are calling it a “Rally to Save the American Dream.”

March 2nd and 3rd the Maine State Employees Union is planning rallies at State House around the retirement proposals in our budget. They are claiming we plan to “drive public workers into poverty,” and “decimate the retirement benefits of current and retired members.”

Here are the quick facts. Next year’s pension checks will NOT go down a single penny as a result of our reforms. We only eliminate 12 filled positions in my budget. For each of these 12 layoffs we retain more than 1,000 good paying, public sector jobs. And the average Maine worker will receive a boost in next year’s take home pay of 2% because we eliminate the shutdown days.

If we promised the same to most hardworking private sector employees they would take to the streets in celebration rather than protest.

As for today’s union rally, we know that the American Dream was first and best captured in the opening of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately we have gotten away from defending our rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and that needs to change.

Workers in Maine should have the freedom to pursue their happiness as they best see fit.

If your workplace has a responsive and effective union, you should have every right to become a member and contribute.

If you do not believe union membership helps in your pursuit of happiness, you should also have the right to decline participation. Forcing a worker to join an organization as a condition of employment runs counter to the rights described in our Declaration of Independence.

For many in Maine there is no freedom of choice when it comes to union membership. I think that needs to change and I look forward to a fair but honest debate on the matter.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the weekend

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