Reactions to LePage 2014 State of the State Address (VIDEO, TEXT, PHOTOS)
In the hours prior to Maine Governor Paul LePage delivering his annual State of the State address, press conferences were held by leadership of both parties at the State House. Senate President Justin Alfond recorded his own video address as part of a press release:
- “Tonight, Governor Paul LePage will deliver the State of the State to the Legislature and to the people of Maine.
- We want to know that our children will have a more secure and brighter future than our own.
- We want to know that our parents, as they age in to their twilight years, can do so with dignity.
- We want to know that if we work hard, we can pay our bills and put away money for our future.
- We know what a growing, and prosperous economy looks like.
For those of you who listen tonight, you may agree with what the Governor has outlined. Or you may not. But one thing all of us, as Mainers, agree on is that we want to live in a state that prospers.
It’s an economy where our small businesses are thriving and innovating, with access to capital, and a skilled workforce. It’s where our kids get an exceptional education from our public schools–from pre-K to college and beyond. And where they choose to stay in Maine because the opportunities that lie ahead of them exist right here-in Maine. It’s where families don’t live in fear that mounting medical bills will lead to bankruptcy or the loss of their home. And it’s where the Maine economy is leveraging our competitive advantages–like our cities and town centers, our working forests, farms and coast land to attract people and new businesses.
Mainers have a long history of prospering. And we can do it again. But we’ve got some work to do.
The number of families who are living in poverty and homeless is rising more than ever before. In fact, and sadly, one in four children in Maine is hungry–it’s the third highest rate of child hunger in the nation. That’s unacceptable. Our economy is still lagging behind the rest of our New England neighbors and job growth is nearly stagnant. While our New England neighbors have regained ALL of their jobs lost during the recession, Maine has only regained one-third.
We can do better than that.
As lawmakers you put us in charge to make the tough choices and come up with solutions to these challenges. And you’re right: it’s up to us. Inevitably there are those places where we may not find agreement–whether it’s providing health care to 70,000 Mainers, including 3,000 veterans through MaineCare expansion or keeping our funding promise to Maine’s towns and cities through revenue sharing. There’s plenty of room for disagreement but when political rhetoric trumps good policy, no one wins. We were sent to Augusta to serve the people of Maine.
It’s been said before: no one party has the monopoly on good ideas. And, it’s true. The people of Maine don’t care if it’s a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, they want solutions. We must work together to find those areas of common ground. Areas where we can work together–with our Republican colleagues and with the Governor to move our state forward.”
Immediately after the Governor concluded his 40 minute delivery before the joint convention, all Democratic leaders met in Speaker of the House Mark Eves’ office with media to give their analysis of LePage’s speech. Here is a full recording of their reactions.
- “Maine needed to hear real solutions from Governor LePage. Instead, he offered the same old ideas that have already failed our state,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland. “Maine needs a blueprint to grow our economy and instead Governor LePage offered pages from his divisive political playbook. Maine deserves better than bad policy and political rhetoric.”
“Right to work isn’t what it sounds like. It’s shorthand for driving down wages so hardworking Mainers earn less–$1,500 less in fact. That’s the wrong way to treat Maine workers,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “We need a leader who will focus on how to shrink the income inequality not divide it further. Maine deserves a leader who will hold up the ladder of opportunity, not yank it up behind him, leaving the working poor with little to no opportunities.”“How many times does Maine have to say no to TABOR? This is nothing more than TABOR 3.0,“ said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Maine needs a fair tax code. Instead, Governor LePage wants to cut services and hike property taxes for the middle class yet again.”
“While Governor LePage puts down struggling Mainers, Maine children are going to bed at night with empty tummies,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. “It’s unacceptable that one in four of Maine children is hungry, and Governor LePage has failed to offer any solutions.”
“Governor LePage doesn’t realize we can’t arrest our way out of Maine’s drug problem,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell of Portland. “Law enforcement cannot do this alone; we need to address addiction by treating it as the disease it is or Maine will continue to lose.”
AARP Maine was quick to note an almost complete lack of acknowledgment by the Governor of the state’s large elderly population and their concerns:
- “On behalf of our more than 230,000 members in Maine, AARP expects strong executive and legislative leadership across party lines,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. “As the Governor stated, ‘it is time to put politics aside.’” AARP Maine was both surprised and concerned tonight that the discussion of fiscal security for families in Maine did not include any discussion of Mainers 50+. “Maine is the oldest state in the nation and these issues need to be addressed,” said Parham.
AARP is disappointed with the Governor’s remarks regarding the expansion of affordable health care coverage in Maine.
“AARP is working to ensure that older Americans who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find new ones can obtain needed health care,” said Parham. “People 50+ are, on average, out of work longer than their younger counterparts. AARP is deeply committed to ensuring that people between the ages of 50-64 without healthcare have options for coverage. This is a key component of retirement security for older Mainers.” Expanding Medicaid will give people without health care insurance access to preventive care that can save lives, ease overall health care costs and infuse millions into local economies.
While AARP recognizes that Maine faces challenges in being the oldest state, there are opportunities which are important to acknowledge. Boomers come with income, energy, skills and a commitment to give back. More than 33 million people nationwide over the age of 45 volunteered their time and talents in 2012. The largest growing age group of entrepreneurs is aged 54-64; especially important in entrepreneurial Maine. Boomers feel a powerful sense of legacy to make their communities stronger for their kids, grandkids and future generations. “While we want to attract young people to Maine, we should not ignore what Boomers already offer Maine and our economy,” said Parham.
“As the oldest state,” she said, “we must work to build a strong and diverse coalition of partners to change the nature of the conversation, to show how the greying of Maine provides economic opportunities for the state and its business and non-profit sectors.”
Maine AFL-CIO was also disappointed in the address, noting as did Senator Jackson that the “Open for Business Zone” proposal was simply an attack on unions:
- The Governor’s proposal to create “Open for Business” zones–in particular, the “right to work” provision– is part of a national agenda to undermine the middle class and lower wages and working conditions for all workers.
“This is just a recycled and repackaged version of the same old divisive policies from the Governor. It would do nothing but hurt hard working, middle class families like mine,” said Scott Bolduc, a firefighter in Bangor. “This plan hurts public safety and our communities. What we need is a Governor that is focused on real issues like raising wages and tackling inequality,” he said.
“You can put a new coat of paint on it, but both Democrats and Republicans have already rejected these proposals. That’s because we can all agree these proposals are a bad idea. They would limit collective bargaining rights, and hurt everyday people we count on like firefighters, teachers and nurses,” said Cokie Giles, a nurse at EMMC.
Giles went on, “‘Right to Work’ limits collective bargaining rights and hurts everyday people we count on, like firefighters, teachers and nurses. By making it harder for workers to bargain for safe patient staffing ratios in hospitals, needed emergency equipment, and smaller class sizes, our communities suffer. The Governor wants to make it harder for nurses to be a strong voice for safe staffing and patient safety.”
Bolduc concluded, “The Governor’s proposal is a recycled gimmick that is more sound bite than substance. It will do nothing to improve the lives of hard working Mainers.”