I arrived at Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell’s Vassalboro home. She was in her yard talking to some people who had been out walking. The conversation seemed friendly. I watched from my car so as not to intrude. Suddenly, and without warning, Mitchell grabbed a big stick and whacked both of them on the head until they both collapsed. She went through their pockets, took out their loose change and bills, put the money into her pocket and then proceeded to help them back to their feet.
I was dumbfounded by her actions and even more so from their response. The victims were not outraged or at all angry. It was like this happened all the time. They chatted warmly for a few minutes before continuing their walk. Libby turned and saw me. She waved good-naturedly and I, somewhat warily, waved back.
“I see you found us okay,” she said shaking my hand. “Not difficult. I just looked for the barn with your name bigger than life on the side.” She laughed. “Let’s go in and talk,” she said with ample Southern charm.
I let her lead the way. She was still carrying that big stick, after all.
I looked around and something odd caught my eye. Her kitchen table was arranged with neat piles money. Some of the piles were large and some were small. There were many different piles.
She added the money she had just taken from the couple outside to one of the piles.
“I’m glad you agreed to meet with me,” I said to Libby. “I know you are considering running for Governor and I had a few questions but first, can you tell me what happened outside and what is with all this money? Is it for a charity or something?”
She smiled. “Not a charity. This is a model of Maine’s budget. This pile represents the budget for the Department of Inland Fisheries. This one is for the Department of Corrections. That one,” she said pointing to a larger pile, “is the Department of Health and Human Services.”
I nodded. She continued, “Revenues have been down this year so some of these piles have not been getting as much money as they had last year.”
“What about what happened outside?”
“Oh that. Well, I needed money to demonstrate our state budget accurately to you. My constituents provided the money just as they provide the funding for the real budget,” she said simply.
“Why the club?”
“No one likes to pay taxes,” she said simply. I couldn’t argue with that and yet they had seemed happy with her even though she had pulled more money out of their pockets for her own project. I shouldn’t have been surprised. She has won her races for State Senate easily. Even her election to President of the Senate had gone through without difficulty. Republican leader Kevin Raye seconded her nomination.
I returned my attention to the budgetary model, “This pile on your table is for higher education, right? You have been a big supporter of increased funding for higher education over the years.”
She nodded, “Now is not the time to make major cuts to our community college network and university system.”
“So if we are seeing a rough economy and revenues are decreasing, how do you expect to be able to fund higher education as much as you would like?”
“I’m glad you asked,” she said smiling. That was when she hit me with her club.