Maine Asks LePage: “Which Communities Are About To Default, Governor?”

Posted on February 19, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

UPDATES: Interesting exchange between myself and Dan in December 2011 about the never named communities.

My friend Gerald has a “default poll” post running today, so I thought we could run one as well to elaborate on his poll! BTW, so far 92% (23 of 25) responders think LePage is “making sh*t up”.Our MPW Question:

“Which communities do you belive Gov. Lepage was referring to when he said that some were ready to default?”

Even in these days of zippity-quick social media, strong enough that a handful of people can overthrow 30 years of oppression by utilizing Facebook and Twitter, it appears that sometimes it still takes some time for traditional media to pay attention and catch up to what’s going on in their own state.

Take for example, Governor LePage’s statement as first reported in Dirigo Blue (emphasis mine):

I have transcribed the section in which Gov. LePage mentions these couple of communities. The text that is struck through was part of the prepared remarks he did not read. The underlined is what he added:

We owe twice as much in debt as we expect to collect in General Fund Revenues the next biennium. Over the next two yearsand our the State of Maine debt as a percentage of state GDP is twice the national average; twice. There are several states that I was reading this week that our teetering on default with municipal bonds. They are Texas, New Jersey, and New York, and folks, we’re only a few numbers behind them.Because whether or not the State defaults, we have a couple of communities that are ready to default. So folks, it is a lot more serious than anyone is willing to give it credit.

That’s the bad news.

Pretty serious stuff from the Governor! This was an address delivered Thursday 10 Feb 2011 to the joint session of the Statehouse with plenty of media there- so one would think that said media would have picked UP on this statement by the Governor and asked him specifically, “What communities?”

Yet none did. For DAYS.


DB then followed up by asking legislators why they were not questioning the Governor- the next day, Democrats responded with a press release:

Democratic lawmakers ask Governor to name “default” communities mentioned in budget speech 

Legislators from financial services committee say we must hear from Maine towns that are ready to “default”
AUGUSTA – Democratic lawmakers on the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee, which considers policy related to banking and foreclosure matters, are calling on the governor to identify the Maine towns he named in his budget speech that are ready to “default.”

“If the governor knows of towns in our state that are facing bankruptcy, lawmakers have an obligation and responsibility to hear directly from those towns,” said Rep. Sharon Treat of Hallowell, who serves as the lead Democrat on the committee and a sponsor of Maine’s strong foreclosure protection laws. “If Maine municipalities are truly on the brink of insolvency, we need to hear about it and make sure the legal and financial safeguards are in place to protect the public.”

The Maine Municipal Association told the House Democratic Office that they are unaware of any Maine town in danger of going bankrupt.

“If my town was facing bankruptcy, I would want to know and I would consider it my duty as representative to work with the state to help my community,” said Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor, a Democratic lawmaker serving on the committee. “The governor’s speech was the first time we heard that there are municipalities in our state that are going bankrupt. The comments are even more worrisome considering the governor’s budget proposal to cut funding to towns.”

The governor’s budget proposal reduces the percentage of revenue sharing provided to municipalities for two years.

Since then, attention is finally being paid by local media and pressure put upon the LePage administration to “put up or shut up”, as people on Facebook and Twitter are discussing the comments, the Governor’s refusal to disclose the names of the communities- and statewide speculation is growing as to whether or not there is any truth to these statements at all.

MPBN: LePage Refuses to Name “Ready to Default” Maine Towns

But the governor has not budged. In a statement, his office said LePage “has had private conversations with leaders from a couple of Maine communities that face severe financial stress. He is monitoring the progress, but will not be naming the communities.””I don’t know what private discussions may or may not have been held, but we at Maine Municipal Association are not aware of any two or three municipalities sort of teetering on insolvency,” says Eric Conrad, spokesman for the association, which represents Maine’s towns and cities.

Adding to the group’s confusion is the governor’s lack of specifics about the problems the cited communities were facing. “We heard him when he said it,” Conrad says. “But we looked a each other and we’re just not sure–was he talking about pension liability, for instance, or overall financial operations. We’re just not clear.”

State statute says that a special board would have to be established to enable financially-troubled municipalities to get assistance from the state. Staff at the Maine Municipal Association say that has not happened before, in their recollection.

Lewiston Sun Journal: LePage dogged by calls to name “default” towns

LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt has declined to name the communities the governor referred to in his budget speech. “The governor doesn’t think it’s his place to share that kind of news,” Demeritt said. “He was speaking in his budget address, and that’s as far as he wanted to go with it.”Demeritt said he wasn’t aware of any communities approaching the state because they couldn’t pay their bills. However, he said, “the governor knows how to read a balance sheet” and he had identified a couple of communities that were in trouble.

Eric Conrad, communications director for the Maine Municipal Association, said no community had come forward with that kind of news. “We’re just not sure what (LePage) meant when he said that,” Conrad said. “If there were communities approaching insolvency, we think we would know. But we don’t know if the governor was talking about pensions or something else.”

Conrad said nobody he spoke with at the association could recall an example of a town defaulting or initiating the state takeover outlined in Title 30 of Maine law.

Asked why the governor wouldn’t name the communities, Demeritt said the governor didn’t think it was appropriate, even though those towns would become public if they fell under Title 30.

Hmm. Someone should file a FOIA to see that same spreadsheet that Demeritt referenced…

MyFoxMaine: Governor’s ‘Default’ Claim Questioned

The Maine Municipal Association says it’s not aware of any Maine town in danger of going bankrupt.  But the Governor’s office says it is true.  Still, it does not plan to release more details.”Governor LePage has had private conversations with leaders from a couple of Maine communities that face severe financial stress.   He is monitoring the progress, but will not be naming the communities,” said Dan Demeritt with the Governor’s office.

WGME: Governor LePage: Some Maine communities facing “default”

Bangor Daily News (same story as LSJ): LePage refuses to name ‘ready-to-default’ towns

And still, the Governor has refused to answer the questions. And for the second week in a row, LePage has failed to issue a weekly address to the State of Maine.

So much for openness and transparency…

“Which communities do you belive Gov. Lepage was referring to when he said that some were ready to default?”
* 10. None; the Governor made it up! – 4 votes (100%)
* 9. Other – 0 votes (0%)
* 8. Calais – 0 votes (0%)
* 7. Brewer – 0 votes (0%)
* 6. Millinocket – 0 votes (0%)
* 5. Lewiston – 0 votes (0%)
* 4. Jay – 0 votes (0%)
* 3. Bangor – 0 votes (0%)
* 2. Augusta – 0 votes (0%)
* 1. Waterville – 0 votes (0%)

Total votes: 4

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