A proposal by Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) to zero-out nearly $2 million in annual funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network prompted hearings in the statehouse today. Citizens who testified before the Senate appropriations committee overwhelmingly opposed the measure. According to local news accounts, LePage's proposal surprised even top Republican lawmakers when it landed last week.
The governor is offering to restore public funding of gubernatorial campaigns, which he targeted in an earlier version of the two-year budget, by completely eliminating MPBN's annual subsidy. The Times Record of Brunswick, which published an op-ed today slamming the governor's trade-off, describes it as a "double-dare: Squawk too much about my MPBN cut and I’ll simply go back to Plan A and reinstate my proposed Clean Elections funding cut."
LePage has had a contentious relationship with MPBN, but he says he's trying to balance the budget, not settle old scores, according to Maine's Capitol News Service, which provides news to MPBN.
MPBN officials were also shocked by the proposal, and say they don't yet know what services or programs would be canceled if the governor's proposal is enacted. "My focus right now, my total energy, is on making sure we don't lose that money," Jim Dowe, MPBN president, told the Portland Press Herald. "If it did happen, there is no magic place to go to replace that money.
Pubcasting advocates have been fighting uphill battles to preserve state funding in many state capitals this year.