Andi’s Weekly Review/ Sneak Peek, Jan 1 (NEW WEEKLY FEATURE) #mepolitics

Posted on January 1, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATE: More information regarding the second Wednesday rally has been provided by one of the organizers, via Facebook.

————

“Alliance for the Common Good Rally of Unity

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 (first day of the new legislative session), 1-4 PM

Hall of Flags, State Capitol, Augusta

Bring: signs (but not on sticks so you can get thru security), information to distribute or put on tables, and ideas to add to a speak out that is part of the afternoon events.

What are your concerns about what the state of Maine should be doing and the directions it should be going in?

What do our legislators need to hear from the public?

These were last year’s primary points of unity (which are ones again this year):

Respect for community sovereignty.
An economy that protects our environment.
Reserving Maine money for Maine people.
Keeping money out of politics.

Some issues we will likely address there:

*Paul LePage’s actions against Mark Eves that may be grounds for impeachment
*Renewed attempts to have more people covered by MaineCare
*November referenda on raising the minimum wage, rank choice voting, marijuana use, and more
*State of Maine’s campaign to take away more of the Penobscot Nation’s sovereignty

Please come and be part of the Alliance for the Common Good’s Fourth annual Rally of Unity.”

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1512843_10207415324009372_7853276067766535371_nHappy 2016! As promised, I will be attempting to sit down at the keyboard every Friday to summarize what has transpired in the past week and give a preview of what to expect next week. (The classic AP Stylebook be darned, btw- going to use my own, um, unorthodox “AP” rules of engagement!)

So with that in mind, here goes nothing!

WEEK IN REVIEW: Just a few quick items for this between holidays, look-back edition.

    1. The first one is SUCH a goody and relevant to the Christmas season. Ah, sometimes the Governor is simply the gift that keeps on giving!

    WMTW reported that Governor LePage gave a few dozen legislators, including House leadership, a childrens’ book entitled, “If You’re Riding A Horse And It Dies, Get Off”:

    pigg

      It’s not clear which members of the House of Representatives got stiffed, but we do know that House leaders did receive copies of the book.

      “We only had 80 (copies) — very simple,” LePage said.

      Many of the people contacted by WMTW News 8 about this story did not want their names attached to this story out of fear of retribution from the Governor’s Office.

    Interesting, in light of the ongoing Eves/ Good Will-Hinckley situation, that simply reporting “a fear of retribution from LePage” is taken as a given.

    Later, the chief executive took to Twitter to scold Maine media:

    Maybe the governor should have dragged the “Piggy Christmas Tree” out of the mothballs? That one was such a crowd pleaser!

    2. 128th Legislative candidate filings are coming in and being posted online. Link here.

NEXT WEEK’S SNEAK PEEK:

    1. Monday, 1/4/16: Maine youngsters go back to school after winter break as parents across the state rejoice (“… and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again”).

    2. Tuesday, 1/5/16 (10a-5p): While the Legislature doesn’t officially come back until Wednesday the 6th, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) will be conducting a public hearing the day before regarding LR 2599, “An Act To Combat Drug Addiction Throught Enforcement, Treatment and Recovery” (AUDIO LINK HERE).

    3. Wednesday, 1/6/16: The House and Senate come back into the second half of the 127th Legislative Session at 10 am (which anyone with experience in Augusta will know that while many ringing bells will echo in the hallways, they won’t actually start for at least a half hour later than that).

    But one event that WILL happen as scheduled will be an 11am “State House Rally To Impeach Paul LePage” outside the State House, just under the governor’s second floor windows. The same group rallied in June 2015.

    Since June, the group has garnered over 20k signatures on a petition calling for the governor to resign.

    Later the same day, a group called “Alliance For The Common Good Unity” plan to rally as well. On Facebook, the organizers state they are gathering at 1pm, but they are listed as meeting at 2pm in the Hall of Flags.

    4. Thursday, 1/7/16: The legislature is in session and the Environmental Priorities Coalition will meet from 11:30-12:30 in State House (SH) Room 334 to issue a briefing on land conservation.

    5. Friday, 1/8/16 (9a- ?): Government Oversight Committee (GOC) meets. Among the “Unfinished Business” agenda items is this one of note:

      OPEGA Information Brief on State Funding for Good Will-Hinckley
      – Review and Approval of GOC Addendum to OPEGA Report

So, there you have it- the first of what will hopefully be a weekly column of useful info or what have you. Have a great weekend, folks!

~Andi

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AFA/ Education Committee Take up LR 1852 (LePage Biennial Budget, FY 2016-17) in Public Hearing

Posted on March 13, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

On Monday, the Maine 127th Legislature’s Education Committee met with Appropriations to hear testimony regarding Governor LePage’s proposed FY 2016-17 biennial budget. The morning’s agenda:

    10:00 AM HIGHER EDUCATION AND CULTURAL AGENCIES
    University of Maine, Board of Trustees of the
    · Casco Bay Estuary Project – University of Southern Maine
    · Debt Service – University of Maine System
    · Educational & General Activities – UMS
    · Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community
    · Maine Economic Improvement Fund
    · UM Cooperative Extension – Pesticide Education
    · University of Maine Scholarship Fund
    Community College System, Board of Trustees of the Maine
    · Bring College to ME Program
    · Maine Community College System – Board of Trustees
    Finance Authority of Maine
    · Educational Opportunity Tax Credit Marketing Fund
    · FHM – Dental Education
    · FHM – Health Education Centers
    · Student Financial Assistance Programs
    Maritime Academy, Maine
    · Maine Maritime Academy Scholarship Fund – Casino
    · Maritime Academy – Operations
    Arts Commission, Maine
    · Arts – Administration
    · Arts – General Grants Program
    · Arts – Sponsored Program
    Cultural Affairs Council, Maine State
    · New Century Program Fund
    Historic Preservation Commission, Maine
    · Historic Commercial Rehabilitation Fund
    · Historic Preservation Commission
    · Historic Preservation Revolving Fund
    Historical Society, Maine
    · Historical Society
    Humanities Council, Maine
    · Humanities Council
    Library, Maine State
    · Administration – Library
    · Maine Public Library Fund
    · Maine State Library
    · Statewide Library Information System Museum, Maine State
    · Maine State Museum
    · Maine State Museum – Operating Fund
    · Research and Collection – Museum
    Public Broadcasting Corporation, Maine
    · Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation

Here are clips from the resulting four hours’ worth of testimony.

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 1)

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 2)

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 3)

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 4)

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 5)

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 6)

AFA/ Edu LR 1852 Public Hearing, Monday 3/9/15 (Pt 7)

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AFA/ HHS Public Hearing LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget, Day 5- Developmental Disabilities, Children & Adult Mental Health

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Public hearing before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee regarding LR 1852 (Governor LePage’s proposed FY 2016-17 biennial budget), recorded 3/6/15.

Topics covered (summarized):

  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Brain Injury
  • Children’s Services
  • Children’s Mental Health
  • Medical Payments to Providers

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 1)

    Return to editingAFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 2)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 3)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 4)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 5)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 6)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 7)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 8)

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  • (VIDEOS) AFA/ HHS Public Hearing LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget, Day 2- General Assistance

    Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

    Here is a copy of DHHS Commissioner Mayhew’s testimony.

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    Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DHHS Meets With AFA, HHS

    Posted on February 1, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

    DSC_0121Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Mary Mayhew along with Alec Porteous and Stephanie Nadeau met with the 127th Legislature’s Appropriations and HHS Committees for three hours on January 22 to discuss the administration’s FY 2016/17 biennial budget as it pertains to the state’s largest agency (Governor Paul LePage’s 2016-2017 Biennial General Fund Budget Proposal can be found here). The entire meeting is below, recorded in five clips.

    From a DHHS press release:

      “For years, DHHS has come to the budget committee with news of massive shortfalls that send lawmakers scrambling,” said Commissioner Mayhew. “This time, it’s different. Under Governor LePage’s leadership, we have stabilized spending in the Medicaid program and are no longer managing to a crisis. Instead, the budget proposal tackles some of the Governor’s biggest priorities: nursing home funding, waitlists, primary care, and much more.”

      The DHHS budget proposal identifies significant savings to help fund important new initiatives, with a net request of just over $6 million for the FY 2016-2017 biennium-this out of a total Department General Fund budget of more than $2 billion.

      DSC_0123Among those initiatives are $24 million in additional Medicaid reimbursement funding for nursing homes; $46 million to move elderly, disabled, and mentally ill patients off of waitlists for services; $28 million to improve access to primary care providers; and $14 million to fulfill Maine’s obligation to mental health under the Consent Decree.

      Roughly $11 million in savings from a proposed reform to General Assistance reimbursement to municipalities will be directed specifically to fund services under Section 21 for disabled Mainers on waitlists.

      A total of $20 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM) will be repurposed away from third-party advocacy organizations and directed to fund increased access to primary care providers for Medicaid recipients.

      After doubling in size, enrollment, and cost in the decade prior to Governor LePage’s first inauguration, Maine’s Medicaid program has since seen enrollment drop from a high of 354,000 in 2011 to 291,000 today. In 2011, 26 percent of Mainers were enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 18 percent of the national population. In 2014, Maine’s Medicaid enrollment matched the national average of 22 percent. “After years spent bailing out the sinking ship of Medicaid, we have finally charted a new course where spending on able-bodied adults is controlled and services for the elderly and disabled are prioritized,” added Commissioner Mayhew. “I am proud to be presenting this balanced budget to the Appropriations Committee on behalf of Governor LePage, whose tenacity and responsible priorities have gotten us where we are today.”

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5

    After the conclusion of the meeting, Daniel E. Wathen, Consent Decree Coordinator, met with the two committees to discuss multiple ongoing issues at Riverview Psychiatric Center and answer questions from legislators. The two clips of that meeting are below.

    Part 1

    Part 2

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    Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DACF Meets With AFA, AG Committees

    Posted on January 25, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

    whitcombMaine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walter Whitcomb met before a joint meeting of the 127th Legislture’s standing Appropriations and Agricultural Committees on January 20th to discuss Governor LePage’s 2016/17 biennial budget’s impacts upon his department in a surprising overhaul of the department, including elimination of 25 Maine Forest Ranger positions, 12 of which are currently vacant, and creation of new law enforcement positions.

      Walter E. Whitcomb, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said in a statement that the budget “represents an important shift in public resources to provide more comprehensive forestry protection and better meet the wide range of forest management threats. It also addresses safety issues raised last year through a proposal to arm rangers.”

      Whitcomb said he participated in budget discussions and is comfortable with the direction his department may be headed.

      “I think what we’re causing to happen is an investigation of what we want our rangers to do,”
      Whitcomb said in an interview. “And I think we’re getting to that point … We want them to be doing more of those firefighter duties, and less of the chasing bad guys.”

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    Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: DAFS Commissioner Rosen Meets With AFA

    Posted on January 25, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

    Director of Office of Policy and Management former state senator Richard Rosen (R-Bucksport)

    Director of Office of Policy and Management former state senator Richard Rosen (R-Bucksport)

    In his first weekly address of the new year, Governor Paul LePage stated that “it is time to take bold action for Maine”.

    Boy, he wasn’t kidding.

    Within an hour of sending out that missive, it was announced that LePage was nominating Richard Rosen to replace the Sawin Millett as commissioner of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). Rosen, a former state legislator with four terms in each chamber, had been serving as interim finance commissioner since Millett retired last May.

    Rosen met with the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee this week to discuss the newly released LePage FY 2016/17 biennial budget, including its “modernizing Maine’s tax code” to reduce individual and corporate income tax rates while increasing sales and user taxes, elimination of the estate tax and military pension tax, as well as a two year plan with an end goal of eliminating municipal revenue sharing, which failed wot win support in the previous legislative session.

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    Sifting Through the LePage FY 2016/2017 Proposed Budget: Reactions

    Posted on January 25, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    Immediately after the conclusion of the LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget meetings with legislative leaders and press, opinions were voiced. Democrats for the most part were cautious in their responses:

      “We will carefully be reviewing the Governor’s budget. We know there are some ideas we like and others we have very strong concerns about,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “Our focus will be on protecting middle class families, schools, and seniors, while growing good paying jobs and a strong economy.”

      Justin Alfond, Mark Eves“It’s a good starting point. We need to review all the details to understand how the entire budget interacts,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “Our priorities haven’t changed. We will continue to work on important issues to ensure economic security and success for all Mainers while also focusing on attracting new folks to our state.”

      “Our committee will be pouring over the details of the budget with a focus on protecting Maine families, seniors and our schools,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. “I’m optimistic Republicans and Democrats can work together to craft a fiscally responsible budget. I do have concerns as I look at the budget, particularly the nearly $50 million cut to the Drugs for the Elderly program, which helps so many seniors across the state afford their medicine.”

      Senator Linda Valentino, D-Saco, who serves on the Appropriations panel said: “Today was an important first step for our state. There are some things that I’m pleased by and others are that I’m concerned with. But overall, I know that over the next four months our committee will continue the tradition of working together toward consensus.”

    Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) executive director Garrett Martin was far more scathing:

      “The state budget is a reflection of the choices we make together to strengthen our communities, support vulnerable residents, and build a vibrant economy. Governor LePage’s two-year state budget proposal released today reflects the wrong choices. Prioritizing tax cuts for the top 1% and corporations is a failed prescription for growing Maine’s economy.

      “The tax cuts contained in the governor’s budget proposal will benefit the wealthy and corporations while raising sales and property taxes for the rest of us. They will also trigger harmful cuts in health care for children, the elderly, and the disabled, delay essential repairs to our crumbling roads and bridges, and undercut a good education for our kids.

      “The experience of other states that have followed a path that prioritizes tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations shows that this is an ineffective, fiscally irresponsible strategy for growing the economy. Those states have not realized significant economic benefits but have cut programs families and businesses value, increased property and sales taxes, and had their credit ratings downgraded.

      “Instead of trying to cut our way to prosperity by giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, we should be investing in the sturdy foundation of a strong economy – a healthy and educated work force, good roads and other public services, and other needed investments in people and infrastructure that are proven effective at helping businesses and workers thrive. That is the right choice for Maine. We look forward to working with legislators in the coming months to ensure that the final budget they approve reflects these priorities.”

    Republican reaction has been cool to raising of taxes, which positive to other aspects of the plan.

      Republicans did not offer an endorsement of LePage’s ambitious tax code overhaul — which would increase the sales tax while expanding it to 200 goods and services that are not taxed now. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that many sitting Republican legislators campaigned against a 2009 tax reform plan crafted by Democrats and overturned in a 2010 referendum that included a comparable expansion of the sales tax.

      The governor’s budget is designed to reduce Mainers’ tax burden by $300 million through an income tax cut, and Republicans have embraced some elements of the proposal publicly while reserving judgment on the sales tax piece. Republican leaders, who will be asked to help carry the governor’s budget within their caucus, have focused on lowering the income tax.

    At least one strong supporter of the governor, WLOB radio personality Ray Richardson, has broken the logjam of GOP silence:

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    (UPDATED x4) Maine Mayors Warn of Revenue Sharing Cuts, Tax Increases and Impact on Communities

    Posted on January 15, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte addresses media at Maine Mayors' Coalition press conference, urging lawmakers reject Governor LePage's revenue sharing cuts as part of FY 14-15 budget proposal.

    Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte addresses media at Maine Mayors’ Coalition press conference, urging lawmakers reject Governor LePage’s revenue sharing cuts as part of FY 14-15 budget proposal.

    (Originally posted 11 Jun 2013) Last week a press conference was held at the State House’s Welcome Center where leaders from Portland, Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta, Gardiner, Waterville, Sanborn and Bangor addressed the media and voiced concerns regarding the impact Governor LePage’s proposed zero revenue sharing cuts will have on their communities. Dozens more municipalities across the state have sent resolutions and communications to the Legislature protesting the cuts.

    Augusta Mayor Bill Stokes said, “Maine communities have already absorbed a 30% cut in revenue sharing. This year, we are receiving just under $98 million, instead of the $140 million we would have received by law. Now there are proposals to cut that by $20 million a year or more. That will mean a significant property tax increase in Augusta.”

    Karen Heck, Waterville’s Mayor, has long been outspoken in her criticism of tax cuts and how those cuts affect municipalities, as was her predecessor, Paul LePage. She laid out a bleak picture:

    “Even the best of these (Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee) proposals means a loss of nearly 50% million to municipalities over the next two years. We have been cutting services and trimming payroll for several years. We simply cannot absorb that kind of cut without raising taxes. Revenue sharing is an obligation, a bill the state should pay.”

    She had spoken up the previous evening at a Waterville city council meeting as well, blasting the Governor’s proposal:

    heck waterville

    “This is really a ridiculous position for all of us to be in,”

        Heck said of the man who was mayor of the city from 2004 until he became governor in 2010.

    “When the governor was mayor, clearly he used some profane language to describe exactly what he’s doing to us in a much worse way.”

    She continued: “I’m not sure why the governor is interested in making sure hospitals get paid. But the mayors feel that the state needs to pay its bills when it comes to what it’s mandated to pay us in revenue sharing.”

    Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett noted that “we have a revenue problem in Maine and we need to look at additional streams of revenue”:

    “We are calling on all legislators to commit to preventing this tax shift to the property tax. As we recommended in a letter to the Governor last month, this tax shift can be prevented by some modest shifts to the sales tax. The Mayors Coalition is supportive of proposals that temporarily raise the sales tax to 6% and raise the lodging tax.”

    Jonathan Labonte, Mayor of Auburn, who noted that his city has been working to share services with nearby Lewiston for some time now, added that “Eliminating revenue sharing would effectively undermine the state’s 40 year cooperative agreement with municipalities. These are the revenues that keep your property taxes from skyrocketing and help to pay for municipal services such as firefighters, schools and road maintenance.

    Also speaking out were Cathy Conlow (VIDEO), Bangor’s city manager, Maura Herlihy of Sanford and Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett for Mayor Macdonald (VIDEO), who mentioned at length the expensive, multiple fires his city had recently endured:

    Mayor of Portland Michael Brennan (VIDEO) concluded by asking, “all legislators to work to prevent a property tax increase in virtually every community in the state.”

    (Bonus: Q&A clip)

    ————

    UPDATE #1: Originally posted in June 2013 and oh, what a difference a year made. In June 2014, Governor Paul LePage selected Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte to serve as Office of Policy and Management director, as outgoing head Richard Rosen had been tapped to temporarily take over at Department of Financial Services for the retiring Sawin Millett.

      The chance to serve the state of Maine and the governor was one he (LaBonte) couldn’t turn down, he said.

    “When a governor calls and asks you join their team, that’s a unique opportunity,” LaBonte said.

    LaBonte said he did not believe his appointment had anything to do with election-year politics.

    “If there’s anything political about this, it is the governor was eager to see this office created and is looking to see works delivered out of it,” LaBonte said.

    DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen presents the LePage FY 2016/2017 biennual budget to AFA, 1/13/15.

    DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen presents the LePage FY 2016/2017 biennual budget to AFA, 1/13/15.

    Yesterday, the LePage administration continued to roll out the governor’s proposed FY 2016/2017 biennial budget as now DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen, deputy commissioner Dr. Michael Allen and Labonte sat down with Maine media, a day after Rosen presented the budget to the newly seated 127th Legislative Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. This jumps out:

        LaBonte, who also is the director of LePage’s office of policy management, said Wednesday during a briefing with reporters that fears the proposal would decimate municipal finances are overblown.

    He said in 2008 revenue sharing only accounted for 5 percent of municipal budgets statewide and that the figure had decreased to 3.5 percent by 2012.

    “So revenue sharing is not a large share of those municipal budgets and certainly not a large share of what’s going toward those expenditures,” LaBonte said.

    When revenue sharing was first put in place, its intent was to provide property tax relief. Because the funding was directed to municipal government and did not go directly to property owners, they never ultimately benefited, LaBonte said.

    On Friday, Governor LePage attempted to minimize the effects of municipal revenue sharing and the impact its removal will have on Maine’s 460 plus cities and towns.

    So same as 2013 Governor Paul LePage thought 2009 Mayor LePage wrong* on municipal revenue sharing, apparently 2015 OPM Director/ LePage team player Jonathan Labonte seems to now think that 2013 Auburn Mayor Labonte was making a big deal out of nothing.

    *RELATED: Video: Did 2009 Waterville Mayor Paul LePage Rip 2013 Governor LePage For Revenue Sharing Cuts To Towns, Education Funding Failures?

    ————–

    UPDATE #2: OPM Director/ Auburn Mayor Labonte has responded via Twitter in an interesting exchange as well as Bangor city councilor Ben Sprague:

    When the email is received, it will be shared here. ~AP

    ——————–

    UPDATE #3: The February 2013 email exchanges between Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte, members of the Maine Mayor Coalition and legal counsel were shared by Labonte moments ago:

    ——————–

    (2/16/15) As Labonte continues to see his own position as not inconsistent, this post is being updated below with more conversations via Twitter today.

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    (VIDEOS) Maine Governor Paul LePage, Administration Present FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget

    Posted on January 13, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

    The entire press conference here, in order of speakers.

    DAFS Commissioner Richard Rosen will be presenting the budget to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee later today.

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