LePage: “If You’re A Refugee, I’m All In- If You’re An ‘Asylee’, I’m Skeptical And I’m Concerned”

Posted on April 3, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

The first question asked of Governor Paul LePage last night directly took on the administration, in regards to the 150 day wait for those seeking asylum in order to be allowed to work. This has been a huge battle between LePage, DHHS and the Cities of Portland and Westbrook for quite awhile now over funding with ongoing litigation.

A theme LePage has repeated for quite awhile now. From his State of the State address:

    “We have limited resources and we have to stretch them as far as we can go. And one of the elements that has a burden in the last couple years has been those who have receiving funds, but they are here illegally. 

    Now, am I compassionate about illegal aliens? Yes, I am. I would prefer that they do it the right way, but it’s very expensive, ’cause I’ve gone through that. We brought a young man here and we did it the right way and paid the bill.  

    But this is the problem with some of the illegals that are here today. When a refugee comes here from a foreign country, they get a medical assessment and we know their health. But when they come here illegally, they don’t get medical assessments. 

    And one thing that we don’t want to see is the uptick of hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis. 

    But it is here. We are dealing with it. And it is very costly. 

    So if nothing else, they should be getting a medical assessment when they get here.

    And I believe that my responsibility as your governor is number one to Maine residents first and everyone else second.”

Other Republicans in Maine have been very vocal in their views of those who come to Maine seeking asylum, most notably Lewiston Mayor Bob MacDonald. This last night seems on the surface via LePage’s wording to be a reversal of his previous views on refugees.

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Reactions to LePage 2014 State of the State Address (VIDEO, TEXT, PHOTOS)

Posted on February 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

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.
    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.

    • 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.

    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.”

    (L-R) House Majority Leader Seth Berry, Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, Senate President Justin Alfond, Speaker of the House Mark Eves, Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Asst Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell.

    (L-R) House Majority Leader Seth Berry, Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, Senate President Justin Alfond, Speaker of the House Mark Eves, Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Asst Senate Majority Leader Anne Haskell.

    “We were hoping to hear a positive vision to move our state forward and create opportunity for all, but instead Governor LePage rolled out divisive and failed policies that will only hurt our economy and our people,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “He continued to make the same old excuses to deny life-saving health care to tens of thousands of Mainers, including nearly 3,000 veterans. We know the consequences of not accepting federal health care dollars are deadly. Plus, we are losing out on more than $700,000 per day to create jobs and stimulate our economy – that’s more than $24 million in the last month alone.”

    “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.”

    Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook): The Governor's "open for business" zones are more like the Twilight Zone.

    Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook): The Governor’s “open for business” zones are more like the Twilight Zone.

    “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.”

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Maine Governor Paul LePage’s 2014 State of the State Address (VIDEOS, TEXT, PHOTOS)

Posted on February 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

speechMaine Governor Paul LePage stood before a joint convention of the 126th Legislature on Tuesday evening and gave his 2014 State of the State Address.

As expected, LePage touched upon a number of topics already known to be potential focal points, touted what some fellow Republicans had earlier described as accomplishments by the administration and put forth some surprising new proposals, including creation of what he described as “Open for Business Zones”, which would benefit large companies with discounted electrical rates, access to Maine capital, decreased tax rates and be free of unions, ie, small in-state “right to work” zones. Few specifics on these zones have yet to be released by the administration other than that covered by the Governor in his address.

LePage surprised lawmakers by calling for a statewide TABOR referendum, similar to the efforts that voters voted down in 2006 and 2009.

He also seized the opportunity to speak before a large television audience as an opportunity to go off script, scolding legislators and deliver much of the same rhetoric that Maine has heard from LePage many times over the past three years in what some labelled a campaign defining moment:

    “Gov. Paul LePage’s third State of the State address was delivered to an assembly of Maine lawmakers, but Tuesday’s 50-minute speech was directed at the two men with the best chance of keeping him out of the Blaine House for another four years.

    Using a television audience and scolding and swaggering rhetoric, LePage laid out broad policy initiatives that have little chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Legislature but will show Mainers a sharp distinction between his vision for the state and that of his challengers, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.

    From his vow to create “Open for Business” zones to attract large companies that would be exempt from collective bargaining law, to a war on drugs focused on arrest and prosecution, LePage rolled out sweeping policy initiatives that will serve to define his bid for a second term.

    Even his call for a statewide referendum to ask Maine voters if they want to support $100 million in tax relief in exchange for $100 million in reduced government spending appeared to double as a campaign strategy to mobilize voters.”

Reactions to the governor’s speech by Democrats and a large number of organizations from around the state will be shared in a follow up post.

Full video of the Governor’s address is being shared in 3 parts; this is the first portion.
PART 2 
PART 3
Photos taken from within the House chamber include some from the Democratic leadership press conference held immediately after the conclusion of LePage’s speech.

Text of Governor LePage’s 14 page speech, as prepared for delivery

    Chief Justice Saufley, members of the 126th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:

    Tonight, I am here to update you, the people of Maine, about the condition of our great state.

    Governor Paul LePage motions to Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley during his State of the State address

    Governor Paul LePage motions to Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley during his State of the State address

    First, I must recognize a few individuals. To my lovely wife Ann and children—please stand—I would not be here tonight without you. Ann, you have made Maine proud as our First Lady.

    Staff Sergeant Douglas Connolly, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

    As we thank our men and women in uniform, we are reminded of those who are not with us. Bill Knight greeted thousands of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at Bangor International Airport.

    A World War II veteran, Bill was part of the Greatest Generation. He died on Christmas Day at age 91. He made greeting the troops his life’s most important duty.

    Another veteran who is not here tonight is someone many in this chamber know and respect. Michael Cianchette, who was my chief legal counsel, is now deployed to Afghanistan.

    Mike is truly one of Maine’s best and brightest, and we send him our best wishes for a safe return home. Mike’s lovely wife, Michelle, is here with us tonight. Michelle, please stand.

    Our administration is working hard so young Mainers like Mike and Michelle can continue to live and work in our state. We want our young families to enjoy a growing economy that allows them to prosper and succeed.

    Mainers are a breed apart. Many of us value our individuality. We work hard. We take care of each other.

    I love my state. I am proud to call myself a Mainer. I want every Mainer to succeed and prosper. But Maine is at a crossroads. We have huge challenges.

    Higher taxes and bloated government have not improved our lives. Higher energy costs have not attracted major investments to Maine. More welfare has not led to prosperity. It has not broken the cycle of generational poverty.

    We cannot return to the same failed policies of the past 40 years. We are better than that. We must be bold. We must have the courage to make the tough decisions.

    We can do better. We will do better.

lepage sots angry selfJOBS/ECONOMY

    We must keep our young people in Maine. Recently, I asked some Bowdoin College students, “What can we do to keep you here?” One of them was Gregoire Faucher from Madawaska. He is eager to hear what the future of Maine holds for him. Comment ca va, Gregoire? Ca me fait plasir de vous avoir ici ce soir.

    Unfortunately, Gregoire hears more about job prospects in Boston or New York or even New Hampshire than right here in Maine. He wants to stay in Maine. But he may have to leave to find higher-paying jobs and better opportunities.

    Greg and his classmates are the kind of young people we need to grow our state’s economy. We must create a business climate that encourages investment that will employ Maine people.

    Recruiting job creators to come to Maine is not easy. The global competition is fierce. Investment capital goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is appreciated.

    As Winston Churchill said: “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.”

    Since we took office, we have made Maine more competitive. Maine’s unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2%. It’s the lowest since 2008. Almost 13,000 new private-sector jobs have been created since we took office.

    We reduced bureaucratic red tape.

    We cut the automatic increase to the gas tax.

    We eliminated almost $2 billion in pension debt.

    We right-sized government.

    We found efficiencies within state agencies. My proudest achievement: paying $750 million in welfare debt to Maine’s hospitals. It sent the message that, in Maine, we pay our bills.

    Because of our efforts, good-paying jobs are being created all over the state.

    • In Portland, the Eimskip shipping service.
    • In Wilton, Barclaycards.
    • In Brunswick, Tempus Jets.
    • In Nashville Plantation, Irving Forest Products.

    More jobs have been added at such world-class companies as:

    • Maine Wood Concepts in New Vineyard.
    • Molnlycke Health Care in Wiscasset.
    • Hinckley Yachts in Trenton.

    We are a state of entrepreneurial “doers.” There are 40,000 small businesses in Maine. Our state has roughly 130,000 microbusinesses. They employ 170,000 people. They drive our economy. If they could each add one more job, that would transform our economy.

    Nicole Snow of Sebec is a very successful micro-entrepreneur. She created Darn Good Yarn, and she does all of her business online. Nicole is growing her company into a million-dollar business—thanks to the internet. Nicole, please stand.

    Having spent my career in business, I know what grows an economy. But there is a major push by many in this chamber to maintain the status quo.

    Liberal politicians are taking us down a dangerous path—a path that is unsustainable. They want a massive expansion of Maine’s welfare state. Expanded welfare does not break the cycle of generational poverty. It breaks the budget.

    In 1935 during the height of the Great Depression, FDR—the father of the New Deal—warned against welfare dependency. He said: “To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit … The federal government must and shall quit this business of relief.”

    Big, expensive welfare programs riddled with fraud and abuse threaten our future. Too many Mainers are dependent on government handouts.

    Government dependency has not—and never will—create prosperity.

lepage 126th wholeMEDICAID EXPANSION

    Maine expanded welfare over a decade ago. Now MaineCare alone is consuming 25 percent of our General Fund dollars. The result?

    We are taking money away from:

    • Mental health services
    • Nursing homes
    • Job training
    • Education
    • Roads
    • Law enforcement
    • Natural resources

    Maine’s welfare expansion resulted in 750 million dollars of hospital debt. We just paid it off. Some want to repeat that mistake.

    Look at the facts. Welfare expansion will cost Mainers at least $800 million over the next decade. It will cost Maine taxpayers over $150 million in the next three years. Maine’s current welfare system is failing:

    • Our children
    • Our elderly
    • Our disabled
    • Our mentally ill

    Thousands of our most vulnerable citizens are on waitlists for services. They need your compassion.

    Michael Levasseur of Carmel has autism and needs care 24/7. Michael is here tonight with his parents, Cynthia and Paul. Cynthia had to quit her job to care for her son, and they had to downsize their house to make ends meet.

    With services, Michael could get a job coach, assisted-living accommodations and participate in a day program. Maine lawmakers must address these waiting lists. Michael deserves your compassion.

    We must set priorities on who will get services with our limited resources. Money may grow on trees in Washington, D.C., but we cannot count on promises of federal windfalls to pay for our services.

    Let’s be clear. Maine will not get 100 percent federal funding for welfare expansion. Maine already expanded. That means the federal government would give us less money than other states that are expanding now.

    Adding another hundred thousand people to our broken welfare system is insanity. It is unaffordable. It is fiscally irresponsible. Expanding welfare is a bad deal for working Mainers who have to foot the bill.

    Liberals believe that giving free health care to able-bodied adults, while leaving our most vulnerable in the cold, is compassionate. I disagree.

    We must show compassion for all Maine people. We must protect our hard-working families from the higher insurance premiums and higher taxes that will result from further expansion. Do not focus on the next election. You must focus on the next generation.

GOP rises to applaud as LePage restates his views on EBT fraud, which his own documentation found to be at a rate of 0.2%.

GOP rises to applaud as LePage restates his views on EBT fraud, which his own documentation found to be at a rate of 0.2%.

WELFARE REFORM


    We owe the next generation a society that provides them with prosperity and opportunity, not welfare and entitlements.

    I will not tolerate the abuse of welfare benefits. Maine’s limited resources must be reserved for the truly needy. Maine EBT cards provide cash for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This cash is supposed to purchase household items for needy children.

    Every dollar that goes to buy cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets is a dollar taken away from a needy child, family or others who need services.

    My proposal will prohibit TANF funds from being used for alcohol, tobacco, gambling and other adult entertainment. We will limit the use of Maine EBT cards to Maine—not Hawaii, not Florida.

    If you want to ask the taxpayers for money, you should make a good-faith effort to get a job first. We will require those seeking welfare, if able, to look for a job before applying for TANF benefits.

    Maine taxpayers are being punished because our welfare program far exceeds the federal guidelines. Maine has been so lenient with its work exemptions, the federal government has fined us millions of dollars in penalties. We must eliminate exemptions that excuse TANF recipients from work.

    There is no excuse for able-bodied adults to spend a lifetime on welfare at the expense of hard-working, struggling Mainers. That is not what I call compassion. As John F. Kennedy said in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” These are words that still ring true today.

EDUCATION

    I know generational poverty. But I escaped generational poverty, and lived the American Dream. Some caring Maine families took me in from the streets of Lewiston and gave me the guidance I needed to succeed.

    I have said it many times. Education saved my life. Throwing money at poverty will not end poverty. Education and mentoring will end poverty.

    Our bridge year programs are providing educational opportunities for Maine students. The Business Academy in Biddeford recently presented 33 students with a total of 126 college credits. We saved these students thousands of dollars in college tuition.

    In Fort Kent, 17 students have completed their freshman year at college upon graduating high school.

    This spring, students in Hermon will graduate high school with diplomas and technical proficiencies and trade licenses. Many lawmakers, the union and school superintendents have opposed our reforms at every step. But I vow to always put our students and our teachers first.

lepage sotsINFRASTRUCTURE

    To strengthen Maine’s economy, we must invest our resources to improve infrastructure, reduce taxes and lower energy costs for homeowners and businesses. Industry needs infrastructure to move goods and services at the speed of business.

    Over the next three years, MaineDOT will invest over $2 billion in infrastructure improvements.

    We will repair or replace 54 bridges and reconstruct hundreds of miles of state roads. We will improve our ports, rail, airports and transit infrastructure. The plan supports over 25,000 jobs in highway and bridge projects. Thousands more jobs will be supported by the plan’s investments in ports, rail, ferries and buses. That’s putting Maine to work.

ENERGY


    But we still face barriers that make Maine less competitive. Heating and electricity costs remain a major obstacle.

    Our homeowners spend well over $3,000 a year to heat their homes. That’s nearly double the national average. Maine families know that this winter has been more challenging than most.

    Distribution of natural gas expanded this year in Southern and Central Maine. Mainers are saving more than a thousand dollars a year by converting to natural gas.

    More funding is now available to help Mainers convert to more affordable heating systems. These systems include wood pellets, advanced oil systems, natural gas systems, energy efficiency improvements, heat pumps – anything that will cut costs for Maine homes.

    High electricity costs make it very difficult to attract business. My administration is working to expand pipeline capacity from Pennsylvania to take full advantage of the natural gas supplies in that state.

    Also, our neighbors in Quebec have the best clean-energy resources on the planet. My Administration is fighting for access to this cost-effective and clean source of electricity along with the rest of New England.

    Many lawmakers have chosen to support powerful special interest groups over the needs of Maine’s ratepayers. Let’s be clear. I do not favor one form of energy over another. I am on the side of those who want to lower the costs for working Maine families. Whose side are you on?

“OPEN FOR BUSINESS ZONES”


    Tonight I am proposing a bold new idea to attract companies that will invest more than $50 million and create more than 1,500 jobs.

    My proposal will offer valuable incentives for companies that choose to locate in certain areas. They are called “Open for Business Zones.”

    “Open for Business Zones” will offer discounted electricity rates; employment tax benefits; and provide access to capital.

    Companies in these zones will get assistance to help recruit and train workers.

    Employees in these zones will not be forced to join labor unions. They will not be forced to pay dues or fees to labor unions. This will allow Maine to compete with right-to-work states.

    Companies in these zones must show preference to Maine workers, companies and bidders.

    Our proposal combines the kinds of incentives that other states have used successfully to attract major investment. We must be able to compete with them. We must be bold.

    We must show young people like Gregoire that we are serious about providing good-paying jobs and opportunities for him and his classmates.

TAX REFORM

    States with the highest economic growth often have the lowest overall tax burdens.

    We are working hard to combat Maine’s reputation as a high-tax state. We passed the largest tax cut in Maine’s history. Two-thirds of Maine taxpayers will get income-tax relief. Liberals call it a “tax break for the rich.” But 70,000 low-income Mainers will no longer pay income tax.

    We cut taxes for the working poor. This is compassion. We put money in people’s pockets. We told the business community we are serious about tax reform. I am proud of the progress we made. But we need to do more.

    Our tax system is out of date. It is not competitive with other states. So let’s ask Mainers in a statewide referendum if they want to lower taxes.

    We must lower our income tax rates and eliminate the estate tax to bring Maine’s tax system into the 21st century. This would make Maine more attractive for people to work and raise their families here. It would encourage retirees to stay in Maine.

    This will protect our working-class families from bearing an unfair tax burden.

    My proposal also includes a limit on the growth of state spending. This will provide much-needed relief to Maine’s taxpayers.

    Let’s stop arguing about tax reform. Let’s ask the people who really matter. Let’s ask Maine’s hardworking taxpayers. We will ask Mainers a simple question at a statewide referendum. We will ask if they want to lower taxes by at least $100 million and reduce state spending by at least $100 million.

    We think Mainers want tax relief. Let’s give them the option to decide.

1000 mile stare

ADDRESSING MAINE’S DRUG PROBLEM

    Finally, we must confront a troubling epidemic. It is tearing at the social fabric of our communities. While some are spending all their time trying to expand welfare, we are losing the war on drugs.

    927 drug-addicted babies were born last year in Maine. That’s more than 7 percent of all births.

    Each baby addicted to drugs creates a lifelong challenge for our health care system, schools and social services. The average cost for drug-addicted births in 2009 was $53,000. Welfare programs covered nearly 80 percent of those increased charges.

    More important than cost are the effects to these innocent children. I am deeply concerned about the suffering and long-term consequences these newborns are subject to. It is unacceptable to me that a baby should be born affected by drugs.

    We must show them our compassion.

    There were 163 drug-induced deaths in Maine in 2012. The use of heroin is increasing. Four times as many people died from a heroin overdose in 2012 than in 2011.

    Over 20 percent of the homicides in 2012 were related to illegal drugs. We must address the problem of drug addiction and drug trafficking. We must act now.

    We need to fully fund the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Our police chiefs tell us local law enforcement officials need more resources to fight the drug problem in our state. Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell is the president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. He is here tonight to show that the chiefs fully support our administration’s war on Maine’s drug problem. I am pleased the county sheriffs also enthusiastically support our initiative.

    As Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” The judicial, executive and legislative branches joined forces in an effort to eradicate domestic violence from our state. We need to come together once again to combat Maine’s drug problem.

    My proposal adds four new special drug prosecutors and four new judges to sit in enhanced drug courts in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston and Portland.

    Since local agencies do not have the manpower or resources they need to fight Maine’s drug problem, we will add 14 MDEA agent positions.

    We must hunt down dealers and get them off the streets. We must protect our citizens from drug-related crimes and violence. We must save our babies from lifelong suffering.

CONCLUSION

    In closing, I welcome common-sense solutions from anyone who wants to put Maine on the right path. Success doesn’t happen by doing nothing.

    Bring me bold solutions. Put your politics aside. Fight for the future of Maine’s children. We must show them the path to succeed.

    God Bless Maine and God Bless America. Now, let’s get to work.

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Dems, GOP Leaders Hold Matching Pre-LePage State of the State Press Conferences

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

In a rather unusual move yesterday, legislative leadership from both parties held press conferences before Governor Paul LePage gives his annual State of the State address tonight, with points that contradicted each other’s stands on whether or not the LePage administration has helped or harmed Maine, whether or not the policies of the Governor have been effective, whether or not there has been economic progress made, etc.

One interesting exchange that media picked up on was whether or not there have been quid pro quo discussions between LePage and leadership of both parties regarding right-to-work legislation and Medicaid expansion.

Here are full video clips from each meeting.

First, Democratic leaders Senate Majority Troy Jackson and House Majority Leader Seth Berry:

    “Governor LePage has divided Maine and pitted us against each other. He’s insulted us and turned Maine into a punch line on the nightly talk shows. Instead of offering solutions to poverty and unemployment, his administration has vilified and shamed working people,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash. “He hasn’t done right by the people, but tomorrow night, he has an opportunity to offer solutions to problems, instead of the same old political rhetoric.”

    “These are complex problems that require the Legislature and the governor to come together to craft meaningful solutions,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “Instead, Governor LePage has offered stale political rhetoric, or remained silent on some of the most pressing issues facing his administration, from the struggles of the middle class to federal investigations to department mismanagement.”

    “There are two federal inquiries looking into the actions of his people at the Department of Labor and the CDC,” added Senator Jackson. “And where does he stand? Who knows? He’s remained silent. Well, he won’t be silent tomorrow night. And he shouldn’t be. It’s time to be accountable.”

Next, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senator Ron Collins (York):

Although not present, a statement by Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau was distributed to the press as part of a joint release from Fredette’s office:

    “Governor LePage’s reforms have significantly reduced Maine’s unemployment rate and the drop is because the people are finding jobs, not quitting the search,” said Rep. Fredette, referring to the December jobs report showing Maine’s 6.2% employment rate and higher than average employment to population ratio. “With reforms to Maine’s tax, welfare, regulatory, and energy policies, we are finally seeing economic growth after decades of Democratic party rule.”

    “Democrats are proposing to expand the very welfare program that has given us a budget shortfall as is responsible for racking up the massive hospital debt that Gov. Lepage and the Republican lawmakers pushed to pay off,” said Sen. Mike Thibodeau. “Gov. LePage has made it clear that he’s focused on making Medicaid work for the disabled Mainers that it was originally meant to help, not able-bodied adults, and I think we can expect him to make that argument Tuesday night.”

The GOP press release concluded by reminding that the State of the State Address can be watched on MPBN, without mention of the efforts the LePage administration made to slash funding for MPBN years ago.

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Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Open and Transparent Government

Posted on February 9, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Audio link here.

lepage officeHello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

It was an honor to speak with Maine families during my State of the State address and reflect honestly on the progress made during the past two years and the challenges we face as a State.

I believe you and your family can prosper as long as government is efficient and effective.

You deserve a government you can trust and afford. Government should be transparent to the public. You deserve to know how government spends taxpayer dollars.

During my campaign for Governor, I promised that I would help create an online tool to show how the state spends your money. I’m pleased to announce that the website is now available. Open Checkbook gives Mainers information about how their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are used by government by taking budget data out of government filing cabinets and
making it available to you for the first time in an easy-to-access way.

The website is opencheckbook.maine.gov.

It enables you to search details of state spending, including vendor payments and employee compensation. We plan to expand the site even more in the coming months to include revenue data and other details related to budget expenses.

Future enhancements will include expanded graphs and budget reports. Details on vendor payments will be uploaded to the website every month and employee compensation, including salary and benefits, will be updated on an annual basis.

This site was funded by saving money in other programs. No additional taxpayer dollars were used to create this new service.

I would also like to take a moment to praise Maine Public Broadcasting Network for their commitment to a transparent and open government.

This week, it launched Maine Capitol Connection, a free, over-the-air television channel dedicated to live, day-to-day coverage of the Maine State Legislature.

Viewers will have access to daily work sessions of the Maine Senate and House of Representatives. Important committee hearings, special events, and selected press conferences will be broadcast each session.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past two years to work with Mal Leary, who is now leading a team of staff as the Managing Editor and Director of the station. I congratulate Mal for his work to get this project up and running.

Mainers deserve a government that is open. Both Open Checkbook and Maine Capitol Connection provide you with the knowledge and power to engage and participate in the democratic process. I encourage you to continue to be an active and informed citizen. Your participation will help make Maine a better place.

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Maine Governor LePage’s State of the State Address… and the Silence of the Elephants

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

100_5149A smart political analyst once taught me an important lesson: “Don’t look for what IS being said but rather for what ISN’T being said.”

Never has that been more clear as to provide insight than in the deafening local Republican silence, post-Governor LePage’s State of the State address.

Case in point: Despite the best and multiple efforts of the Governor’s office in the hours preceding his address to drive forth usage of hashtag #MESOTS, 2 of his strongest allied sites, AsMaineGoes and MHPC/ The Maine Wire, failed to comply.

At all.

Here is the Governor’s missive, delivered at 10 am Tuesday morning:

The Maine Republican Party dutifully retweeted as per the previous instructions and MRP Chair Rich Cebra’s office, under the auspices of former Marden IT guy/ LePage right hand man Jason Savage, immediately sent out a supportive press release after the governor concluded his remarks.

Good boy, Jason. Get promotion.

But as mentioned earlier sometimes, what is most telling is not the conversations themselves- but what ISN’T being said.

Strangely enough, two of the Governor’s staunchest allies have been silent.

As Maine Goes has not had a single thread on the Governor’s address, not even on their public forum. And they have not tweeted since Monday- not a peep in reaction.

Here is their last tweet:

Guess “loyalty” isn’t a lesson your lapdog has mastered, eh Governor?

An aberration? Nope.

Maine Heritage Policy Council and their “online newspaper”, ‘The Maine Wire’, also have been absolutely completely and eerily silent. MHPC last gave the world via Twitter the following deeply profound and compelling insight into the minds to Maine’s conservative members and their interests, which their other Twitter account, er, independent online newspaper retweeted as their most recent pearl of wisdom:

Some days, ya can’t make this stuff up…

Seriously. Nothing since then at all, on all three of these twitter feeds and sites.

No RT shares of the Governor’s own very active Twitter account, no shared opinion pieces supporting LePage…

Nada.

One wonders why.

Nationally, there has been some strong reaction from formerly friendly conservative quarters, as DC based group Tax Foundation (pdf warning) blasted Governor LePage’s public admission that with his proposed budget, he is indeed increasing taxes, as reported in the Kennebec Journal (LePage Budget ‘sneaks’ tax increase) and Bangor Daily News (Taxation watchdogs accuse LePage of ‘stealth’ hike).

Just last October, this same group raised Maine’s business tax rating from 37th to 30th.

And it wasn’t just irate conservatives who interpreted LePage as meaning that taxes would indeed be raised. Ethan Strimling in the BDN had this: Did LePage just say he was willing to raise taxes?

    What strikes me is his inclusion and emphasis on “right now.” He could have easily said “Let’s not raise taxes” and left it at that. But he didn’t.

    And not only did he not leave “right now” out, he actually emphasized it. It struck me the moment he said it, and in watching the video I am more convinced.

    Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but that sure sounds like an opening to Democrats that he would be willing to consider revenues in the long term. Perhaps in exchange for tax cuts today.

A Portland Press Herald editorial called for rolling back the unfunded 125th Legislature’s tax cuts for the wealthy, sponsored by the Governor:

    “The last Legislature passed a huge tax cut, about $400 million over two years, which did not go into effect until January and has never been paid for. The size of the tax cut is roughly what cities and towns would lose without revenue sharing, the homestead exemption and other proposed program cuts.

    Delaying those income tax cuts would not raise taxes. It would keep them at the 2012 rate.”

The tone of the Governor’s address was uncharacteristically conciliatory and cordial; perhaps his finally meeting with the Democratic majority leaders the day before broke the ice for some real progress in Augusta.

But one wonders what whispered conversations are quietly going on behind closed doors…

hannibalAnd so the question must be asked: “Well, Cebra – have the elephants stopped screaming?”

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Maine Governor Paul LePage’s State of the State Address (Video; Prepared Text)

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(It should be noted that the Governor veered dramatically off of the prepared text on multiple occasions, as noted by media covering last night’s event. All signs seem to indicate that the Governor will indeed be seeking re-election in 2014. ~AP)

    Governor LePage’s 2013 State of the State Address As Prepared (VIDEO via BDN)

IMG_1877“Chief Justice Saufley, President Alfond, Speaker Eves, members of the 126th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens.

Tonight, I am here to update you, the people of Maine, about the condition of our great state.

First, I must recognize and thank a few individuals.

To my wife Ann, Ann please stand, I would not be here tonight without you. You have made Maine proud as our First Lady, especially through your support of our armed services and their families.

To my family and friends, I appreciate all you have done, your unwavering support, and all you continue to do throughout my life’s journey.

Staff Sergeant Justin Middleton, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

Members of our military and veterans that are here tonight, please stand.

We salute you and extend our sincerest appreciation to each and every one of you for your service in keeping a safe and free people.

In the balcony, you’ll notice an empty chair next to our uniformed service members.

This chair represents every Mainer who is serving overseas, in harm’s way, so we can be here tonight and exercise our freedom to assemble and our freedom to speak.

I ask that we all take a moment to remember, recognize and thank our men and women in uniform.

IMG_1862Recently, Ann and I had the opportunity to go down to Arlington National Cemetery during the Wreaths Across America trip.

As I walked through rows and rows of tombstones, marking the final resting place of our fallen American heroes, I remembered one simple truth: These individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure future generations had the opportunity to pursue their piece of the American Dream. It is a dream we cherish and the freedom that marks our lives is so rare for the rest of the world.

The American experience represents a unique moment in time. We must not abandon it!

If each and every one of our elected officials visited Arlington, they might realize the political battles we wage are meaningless in comparison to the blood that’s been shed to protect our American Dream.

We all recognize that the political climate in Washington D.C. is toxic. With no solutions in sight, the Federal debt grows at such a pace that many of us question how the American Dream will ultimately survive for our children and grandchildren to experience.

We owe it to each and every one of our fallen heroes, as elected officials, to come together and develop solutions to our challenges. We must commit to make our state a better place to live and raise our families.

There is no more important thing in most of our lives than our families.

Maine families are struggling. With a median household income of just under $48,000, Maine families survive on far less money than those in other states.

Maine families struggle to heat their homes, fill their cars with gasoline, put food on the table, and pay for health insurance.

Government has not strengthened Maine families with more income, opportunity, or reducing the cost of living.

Instead government has taken more and more of our family’s hard working income away to serve some people’s political and/or financial self interests.

The path forward offers two choices. We continue to accept the status quo or we can make the tough decisions to create a better Maine for everyone.

We can only do this if we work together. Every Mainer deserves the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

IMG_1912Recognizing our Accomplishments

Last session, we took steps to improve our economy.

We provided Mainers the LARGEST TAX CUT in history in a bipartisan effort.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary: 70,000 working Maine families no longer pay state income tax.

Two thirds of all taxpayers are receiving tax relief, easing the burden on middle class Maine families.

The average Maine family is receiving a $300 tax decrease. A 28% reduction in their state income tax.

We also reduced taxes for Maine’s job creators. A critical step to attracting investment in Maine.

Unfortunately, there are those who would like to undo these modest reforms– despite having voted for them.

Now is not the time to rollback these monumental reforms.

High taxes come at a high cost: the erosion of our state’s economic competitiveness.

President John F. Kennedy had it right: “An economy constrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs or enough profits.”

Tax cuts were not the only accomplishment of the last session.

Together, we eliminated $1.7 billion, 41% of the existing shortfall in Maine’s pension system, without cutting retiree benefits.

Maine families now have more choices when purchasing health insurance. Over 17% of Maine’s small businesses received a decrease in their rates last year.

With LD 1, we reduced red tape, and improved our permitting process for businesses.

Maine hospitals are now paid in real time for the services they provide.

Principled job creators know that my administration wants to help, and my door is always open.

You want to create a job; I want to be there to help.

However, let me be clear, I am not interested in helping those who increase the cost of living on Maine people for personal financial gain.

We passed legislation to strengthen vocational education. This will ensure that Maine students who work with their hands have more opportunities to learn valuable skills and gain good paying careers.

We passed legislation to hold teachers and principals more accountable through performance evaluations.

Unemployment is down in Maine, lower than the national average.

We are focusing our efforts on branding the State of Maine, recognizing that Maine made products embody quality and value.

Government is becoming more transparent. We exposed the wasteful use of Mainers tax dollars at agencies such as the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine State Housing Authority.

We not only exposed it – we cleaned it up. We have more to do!

I am pleased to announce that in the coming days we will launch a new website that will enable Mainer’s to see how their precious tax dollars are spent.

We placed renewed interest in our natural resource economy. Farming, fishing and forestry continue to be top priorities for moving Maine forward.

My administration also launched a “Business Friendly Communities” initiative. The program works with our towns and cities to make them “Open for Business.” Eighteen Maine communities are now designated as business-friendly.

These reforms are a small step in making Maine a better place to live and raise our families. There is so much work left to do.

Once again, Forbes ranks Maine dead last in the nation when it comes to being business friendly.

We can disagree with Forbes analysis; however, America’s job creators listen to them. Denial or sticking our heads in the sand will not change the reality.

We must put ideologies aside and get to work to make Maine a competitive and prosperous state.

IMG_1954Maine’s Economic Future

I have spoken with a lot of Maine families and businesses in the past three years.

They desperately want more opportunities, better paying jobs, and a lower cost of living.

I spent most of my career in business creating jobs for hard working Mainers. I know what it takes to expand and create jobs. Maine’s cost of doing business is simply too high.

For example, Alabama, South Carolina, Indiana, and Texas are attracting huge investments by companies, providing higher paying jobs for their residents, without exorbitant taxpayer subsidies.

Why shouldn’t Maine people benefit from the same economic opportunity?

Remember one simple truth: “Capital investment goes where it is welcomed – and stays where it is appreciated.”

Improving our economy requires taking bold action.

We must pay our bills, lower our energy costs, reform education, and make government more efficient and affordable for our economy to grow.

IMG_1958Paying Our Bills

When I became Maine’s Governor, hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid bills to Maine’s hospitals were stacked on my desk. My predecessor left no plan to pay them, just IOU’s.

During the last session we paid back $248 million in debt owed to our hospitals.

Tonight, there is a plan on your desk, sponsored by Senator Pat Flood, to pay the outstanding balance of $484 million owed to Maine hospitals.

Hardworking Maine families face two choices, pay their bills or face the debt collector. It is embarrassing that state government is not held to the same standard as every Maine household.

In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center is owed over $50 million dollars. The result of the states IOU?

Lewiston residents are denied the opportunity to fill critical positions, capital improvements are delayed, and local vendors go unpaid.

These IOU’s are damaging the very communities each and every one of you represents.

We cannot expect to have a prosperous economy when we owe hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals that employ Maine people.

My proposal ensures that Maine hospitals get paid. It will improve Maine’s fiscal health, allowing me to release authorized bonds, injecting more than $700 million into Maine’s economy.

For the sake of Maine families, and our economy, I plead with you to act on this proposal quickly.

Maine needs to pay its bills!

IMG_1938Balancing Our Budget

Hardworking Maine families sit at their kitchen table every month to balance their checkbook, and pay their bills.

Federal, state, and local government must do the same.

Our nation faces a national debt of over $16 trillion dollars.

With the Affordable Care Act, Mainers will face huge tax increases, and regulations that will have a negative impact Maine’s own healthcare reforms.

Gridlock has paralyzed Washington D.C., and the American people are paying a heavy price.

We cannot continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren because politicians won’t do their jobs. The policies of Washington D.C. will result in smaller paychecks for Maine families.

In fact, the average Maine family is handing Washington an additional $1,000 dollars this year.

Now is simply not the time to burden Maine families with higher taxes.

I have put forward a balanced budget proposal. I want to hear other ideas for structural changes that will lead to a more efficient and effective delivery of government services.

Energy

Maine’s energy costs are TOO HIGH – and its killing economic opportunity.

Maine families pay more than 24% above the national average for electricity. Our businesses pay 14% more.

Even more discouraging is a law that forced the recent decision by the Public Utilities Commission in favor of Statoil’s off shore wind proposal.

This move compels Maine families and businesses to subsidize a global entity to the tune of nearly $200 million dollars.

Maine can ill afford any more of these job killing decisions that only increase electricity prices for Maine families and businesses, which just continues a policy of crony capitalism.

We need more elected officials to stand up for the ratepayer, for the taxpayer, and for the folks who are paying the bills.

Imagine the burden lifted for Maine families if we promoted policies that saved 24% of their electricity costs.

For those who believe that Mainers should pay more for energy to serve a greater global goal or continue to pad the pockets of those politically connected, I fail to understand your reasoning.

Long term prosperity for the sake of a buck today is not the path to a winning formula.

Just think if every Maine business could invest the additional 14%, to create jobs and pay their employees higher salaries.

For example, Bar Harbor Foods is located in Whiting in Washington County. The company manufactures seafood products.

Mike Cote, CEO and Founder states that the high cost of Maine’s energy erodes the operating margins of the business, resulting in reduced profits.

Reduction in profits slows his ability to re-invest for growth and hire more people in Washington County. In a county that struggles with widespread poverty, this is disheartening.

Maine is competing nationally and internationally and we simply must do better, and we can do better.

It only takes courage, to take bold action.

The average Maine family spends more than $3,000 dollars per year to fill their oil tank. With access to natural gas, this same family could save an average of $800 dollars per year.

My predecessor fast tracked permitting for wind projects; I am going to do the same for all natural gas infrastructure and Maine businesses.

And we should continue to not pick favorites when it comes to energy, and I welcome every energy source that is cost effective for hard working, struggling Maine families.

State government has mandated what types of energy Mainers must buy – regardless of the cost. That is wrong.

Maine has played favorites when it comes to energy – ensuring that well dressed lobbyists and special interest groups pocket the profits, at the expense of Maine families.

Last session, I proposed removing the 100 MW restrictions on renewable hydropower. Expanding access to low cost hydropower makes economic sense.

This session, I am back before the Legislature with the same proposal because Maine needs and deserves lower energy costs.

I encourage this body to advocate for the Maine people, and not bend to the special interests.

Education

I am passionate about education. This passion is not an attack on public schools. I speak passionately because education is what saved my life and I cannot accept any child not being given the same opportunity I had.

As a homeless child on the streets of Lewiston, it never occurred to me that one day I could be a successful businessman, a Mayor or even Governor.

Finding my next meal and a warm spot to sleep was my goal. However, through all that hardship I knew that education was the key for me, if I was ever going to climb out of poverty, escape a life in prison, or life on the streets.

I needed the structure and discipline of a parochial school education provided.

This option allowed me to succeed, despite coming from a background of poverty.

I want every child in Maine to have the same opportunity I did, to pursue a quality education.
Last session, we passed charter school legislation. A topic that has been highly politicized, by administrators and big union bosses, despite the fact that Maine was the 40th state to adopt charter schools.

States like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota – hardly “red” states — have been successfully running charter schools for decades.

In fact, charter schools are part of the mainstream in the rest of the country.

Let me tell you why charter schools are so important to Maine.

Alex West is a student who is currently attending the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, formerly known as Goodwill-Hinckley. Alex, please stand.

Alex is from Hartland. He struggled in a traditional classroom setting, and was at risk of dropping out.

He chose to attend the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, and has gone on to take classes at KVCC. This charter school provided Alex with a bright future.

School choice should not be just for the wealthy elite. Rather as Horace Mann stated in 1846 – “Education is the great equalizer.”

Education is what brought Abraham Lincoln from splitting rails to leading our country though its greatest crises.
School choice benefits each and every Maine student who deserves the best education this state can provide.

Giving students options is more than charter schools. It’s the Maine Math and Science School in Limestone.

It’s the 10 town academies that have a track record of great success. It’s the Bridge Year program in Hermon, where high school students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in 5 years.

All students and parents deserve options, especially those who are economically disadvantaged.

Therefore, I am proposing legislation to give more educational options to all kids. We must fund schools that best fit the student’s needs.

In the case of students like Alex, we will even fund residential costs to attend a school like Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.

All Maine students deserve an equal chance of success whether you live in Cape Elizabeth or Fort Kent. This is how we break the cycle of generational poverty for Maine’s children.

Despite committed teachers, dedicated parents and concerned citizens – too many public schools are not getting the job done. Not only do we need more options for students, we need to improve outcomes in all public schools.

We have schools in Maine where only 23% of students are at grade level in reading and math upon graduation.

On average, only 32% of Maine 4th graders are proficient readers. By the eighth grade, that number only climbs to 39%.

Almost 20% of students drop out before graduation. Those of us in this room have the responsibility to fix this travesty.

Far too many graduates are unprepared for higher education. 50% of incoming community college students require remediation.

Far too many graduates are unprepared for the workforce. Employers are concerned that high school graduates do not have the basic math and reading skills necessary to succeed in the modern workplace.

We spend more than twice the national average on administrative overhead in our schools. In fact, on a per-pupil basis, Maine has the highest district administration costs in the nation.

This money should be going into the classroom, not funding more bureaucrats with questionable impact on our children’s education.

Public school administrators are in denial, and have taken a position that simply cannot be defended on the facts.
As a whole, Maine is not achieving academic growth at a competitive rate. This is unacceptable. But the good news is, we can reverse it.

Here is how we fix the problem.

First, we offer students options that work for them.

Second, we hold our schools accountable. We tell students, parents, and communities if their schools are failing or thriving. We help those that are falling behind and replicate those that are working well.

Tonight I am directing Commissioner Bowen to develop a ranking system for Maine schools. Each school will be graded A-B-C-D or F.

Students, parents, and communities will understand if their schools are good, average or failing.

Then, we help schools that are failing and reward schools as they improve.

The third way we fix this problem is to adopt best practices. I plan to hold a Governor’s Conference on Education this March.

We are bringing national experts to Maine to demonstrate what other states are doing to improve education.

We cannot stand still, we cannot wallow in the status quo and let the rest of the country and world pass us by. Instead, we must embrace the fact that we need to change and work together to solve this problem.

If you believe the status quo is working, you are the problem – not the solution.

If you have an open mind and if you are willing to put our kids first — I invite you to join me in this effort.

I’ll make this promise – I don’t care what party you belong too, if you are willing to put our kids first, to put aside issues like turf and money, we will get the job done.

Domestic Violence

Last session, we put politics aside and worked together to address domestic violence in Maine.

We amended Maine’s bail code, ensuring that judges determine the bail for domestic violence offenses.

We required abusers to pay into the Victim’s Compensation Fund. This provides financial resources to the victims and families of domestic abuse.

A number of other bills dealing with stalking and risk assessment were passed, and executive orders signed.

I want to thank Representative Ken Fredette and Senator Emily Cain for their leadership on this issue, and also for agreeing to sponsor a Governor’s Bill supporting our Batterers’ Intervention Programs.

Ending domestic violence requires abusers to change – batterers’ intervention is an important step in that direction.

As a youth, domestic violence hit close to home for me. I was not a spouse, I was a child.

It is important that we broaden the discussion about these heinous crimes.

Domestic violence is a crime that affects families. Family violence is domestic violence, and we need to focus on protecting all women and children.

Dealing with protection from abuse orders and firearms continues to be an issue with no simple solution.
Protection from abuse orders require people to surrender their firearms until further notice.

However, the enforcement for this is deficient.

Often police cannot do more than simply ask whether the person has surrendered their firearms.

That is why I am signing an Executive Order tomorrow creating a task force to address this problem.

Curbing domestic violence is an issue I take seriously and I value your help in this effort.

Conclusion

Maine families need help, and they are fed up with the partisan political rhetoric.

They want a lower cost of living and opportunities for bigger paychecks.

I have put my proposals forward, and I am open to hearing others. In order to succeed, we must put politics and gridlock aside and take bold action.

The time for talk has ended; it is now time for action. Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts and vision with you tonight.

God Bless Maine and God Bless America. Now, let’s get to work.”

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UPDATED: Maine Governor Paul LePage’s State of the State Address (Link to Video; Prepared Text)

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

(It should be noted that the Governor veered dramatically off of the prepared text on multiple occasions, as noted by media covering last night’s event. All signs seem to indicate that the Governor will indeed be seeking re-election in 2014. ~AP)

Link to BDN Video of Full Address

    Governor LePage’s 2013 State of the State Address As Prepared

“Chief Justice Saufley, President Alfond, Speaker Eves, members of the 126th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens.

Tonight, I am here to update you, the people of Maine, about the condition of our great state.

First, I must recognize and thank a few individuals.
To my wife Ann, Ann please stand, I would not be here tonight without you. You have made Maine proud as our First Lady, especially through your support of our armed services and their families.

To my family and friends, I appreciate all you have done, your unwavering support, and all you continue to do throughout my life’s journey.

Staff Sergeant Justin Middleton, the military herald this evening, thank you for your courageous service to our state and nation.

Members of our military and veterans that are here tonight, please stand.

We salute you and extend our sincerest appreciation to each and every one of you for your service in keeping a safe and free people.

In the balcony, you’ll notice an empty chair next to our uniformed service members.

This chair represents every Mainer who is serving overseas, in harm’s way, so we can be here tonight and exercise our freedom to assemble and our freedom to speak.

I ask that we all take a moment to remember, recognize and thank our men and women in uniform.

Recently, Ann and I had the opportunity to go down to Arlington National Cemetery during the Wreaths Across America trip.

As I walked through rows and rows of tombstones, marking the final resting place of our fallen American heroes, I remembered one simple truth: These individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure future generations had the opportunity to pursue their piece of the American Dream. It is a dream we cherish and the freedom that marks our lives is so rare for the rest of the world.

The American experience represents a unique moment in time. We must not abandon it!

If each and every one of our elected officials visited Arlington, they might realize the political battles we wage are meaningless in comparison to the blood that’s been shed to protect our American Dream.

We all recognize that the political climate in Washington D.C. is toxic. With no solutions in sight, the Federal debt grows at such a pace that many of us question how the American Dream will ultimately survive for our children and grandchildren to experience.

We owe it to each and every one of our fallen heroes, as elected officials, to come together and develop solutions to our challenges. We must commit to make our state a better place to live and raise our families.

There is no more important thing in most of our lives than our families.

Maine families are struggling. With a median household income of just under $48,000, Maine families survive on far less money than those in other states.

Maine families struggle to heat their homes, fill their cars with gasoline, put food on the table, and pay for health insurance.

Government has not strengthened Maine families with more income, opportunity, or reducing the cost of living.

Instead government has taken more and more of our family’s hard working income away to serve some people’s political and/or financial self interests.

The path forward offers two choices. We continue to accept the status quo or we can make the tough decisions to create a better Maine for everyone.

We can only do this if we work together. Every Mainer deserves the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

Recognizing our Accomplishments

Last session, we took steps to improve our economy.

We provided Mainers the LARGEST TAX CUT in history in a bipartisan effort.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary: 70,000 working Maine families no longer pay state income tax.

Two thirds of all taxpayers are receiving tax relief, easing the burden on middle class Maine families.

The average Maine family is receiving a $300 tax decrease. A 28% reduction in their state income tax.

We also reduced taxes for Maine’s job creators. A critical step to attracting investment in Maine.

Unfortunately, there are those who would like to undo these modest reforms– despite having voted for them.

Now is not the time to rollback these monumental reforms.

High taxes come at a high cost: the erosion of our state’s economic competitiveness.

President John F. Kennedy had it right: “An economy constrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs or enough profits.”

Tax cuts were not the only accomplishment of the last session.

Together, we eliminated $1.7 billion, 41% of the existing shortfall in Maine’s pension system, without cutting retiree benefits.

Maine families now have more choices when purchasing health insurance. Over 17% of Maine’s small businesses received a decrease in their rates last year.

With LD 1, we reduced red tape, and improved our permitting process for businesses.

Maine hospitals are now paid in real time for the services they provide.

Principled job creators know that my administration wants to help, and my door is always open.

You want to create a job; I want to be there to help.

However, let me be clear, I am not interested in helping those who increase the cost of living on Maine people for personal financial gain.

We passed legislation to strengthen vocational education. This will ensure that Maine students who work with their hands have more opportunities to learn valuable skills and gain good paying careers.

We passed legislation to hold teachers and principals more accountable through performance evaluations.

Unemployment is down in Maine, lower than the national average.

We are focusing our efforts on branding the State of Maine, recognizing that Maine made products embody quality and value.

Government is becoming more transparent. We exposed the wasteful use of Mainers tax dollars at agencies such as the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine State Housing Authority.
We not only exposed it – we cleaned it up. We have more to do!

I am pleased to announce that in the coming days we will launch a new website that will enable Mainer’s to see how their precious tax dollars are spent.

We placed renewed interest in our natural resource economy. Farming, fishing and forestry continue to be top priorities for moving Maine forward.

My administration also launched a “Business Friendly Communities” initiative. The program works with our towns and cities to make them “Open for Business.” Eighteen Maine communities are now designated as business-friendly.

These reforms are a small step in making Maine a better place to live and raise our families. There is so much work left to do.
Once again, Forbes ranks Maine dead last in the nation when it comes to being business friendly.

We can disagree with Forbes analysis; however, America’s job creators listen to them. Denial or sticking our heads in the sand will not change the reality.

We must put ideologies aside and get to work to make Maine a competitive and prosperous state.

Maine’s Economic Future

I have spoken with a lot of Maine families and businesses in the past three years.

They desperately want more opportunities, better paying jobs, and a lower cost of living.

I spent most of my career in business creating jobs for hard working Mainers. I know what it takes to expand and create jobs. Maine’s cost of doing business is simply too high.

For example, Alabama, South Carolina, Indiana, and Texas are attracting huge investments by companies, providing higher paying jobs for their residents, without exorbitant taxpayer subsidies.

Why shouldn’t Maine people benefit from the same economic opportunity?

Remember one simple truth: “Capital investment goes where it is welcomed – and stays where it is appreciated.”

Improving our economy requires taking bold action.

We must pay our bills, lower our energy costs, reform education, and make government more efficient and affordable for our economy to grow.

Paying Our Bills

When I became Maine’s Governor, hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid bills to Maine’s hospitals were stacked on my desk. My predecessor left no plan to pay them, just IOU’s.

During the last session we paid back $248 million in debt owed to our hospitals.

Tonight, there is a plan on your desk, sponsored by Senator Pat Flood, to pay the outstanding balance of $484 million owed to Maine hospitals.

Hardworking Maine families face two choices, pay their bills or face the debt collector. It is embarrassing that state government is not held to the same standard as every Maine household.

In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center is owed over $50 million dollars. The result of the states IOU?

Lewiston residents are denied the opportunity to fill critical positions, capital improvements are delayed, and local vendors go unpaid.

These IOU’s are damaging the very communities each and every one of you represents.

We cannot expect to have a prosperous economy when we owe hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals that employ Maine people.

My proposal ensures that Maine hospitals get paid. It will improve Maine’s fiscal health, allowing me to release authorized bonds, injecting more than $700 million into Maine’s economy.

For the sake of Maine families, and our economy, I plead with you to act on this proposal quickly.

Maine needs to pay its bills!

Balancing Our Budget

Hardworking Maine families sit at their kitchen table every month to balance their checkbook, and pay their bills.

Federal, state, and local government must do the same.

Our nation faces a national debt of over $16 trillion dollars.

With the Affordable Care Act, Mainers will face huge tax increases, and regulations that will have a negative impact Maine’s own healthcare reforms.

Gridlock has paralyzed Washington D.C., and the American people are paying a heavy price.

We cannot continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren because politicians won’t do their jobs. The policies of Washington D.C. will result in smaller paychecks for Maine families.

In fact, the average Maine family is handing Washington an additional $1,000 dollars this year.

Now is simply not the time to burden Maine families with higher taxes.

I have put forward a balanced budget proposal. I want to hear other ideas for structural changes that will lead to a more efficient and effective delivery of government services.

Energy

Maine’s energy costs are TOO HIGH – and its killing economic opportunity.

Maine families pay more than 24% above the national average for electricity. Our businesses pay 14% more.

Even more discouraging is a law that forced the recent decision by the Public Utilities Commission in favor of Statoil’s off shore wind proposal.

This move compels Maine families and businesses to subsidize a global entity to the tune of nearly $200 million dollars.

Maine can ill afford any more of these job killing decisions that only increase electricity prices for Maine families and businesses, which just continues a policy of crony capitalism.

We need more elected officials to stand up for the ratepayer, for the taxpayer, and for the folks who are paying the bills.

Imagine the burden lifted for Maine families if we promoted policies that saved 24% of their electricity costs.

For those who believe that Mainers should pay more for energy to serve a greater global goal or continue to pad the pockets of those politically connected, I fail to understand your reasoning.

Long term prosperity for the sake of a buck today is not the path to a winning formula.

Just think if every Maine business could invest the additional 14%, to create jobs and pay their employees higher salaries.

For example, Bar Harbor Foods is located in Whiting in Washington County. The company manufactures seafood products.

Mike Cote, CEO and Founder states that the high cost of Maine’s energy erodes the operating margins of the business, resulting in reduced profits.

Reduction in profits slows his ability to re-invest for growth and hire more people in Washington County. In a county that struggles with widespread poverty, this is disheartening.

Maine is competing nationally and internationally and we simply must do better, and we can do better.

It only takes courage, to take bold action.

The average Maine family spends more than $3,000 dollars per year to fill their oil tank. With access to natural gas, this same family could save an average of $800 dollars per year.

My predecessor fast tracked permitting for wind projects; I am going to do the same for all natural gas infrastructure and Maine businesses.

And we should continue to not pick favorites when it comes to energy, and I welcome every energy source that is cost effective for hard working, struggling Maine families.

State government has mandated what types of energy Mainers must buy – regardless of the cost. That is wrong.

Maine has played favorites when it comes to energy – ensuring that well dressed lobbyists and special interest groups pocket the profits, at the expense of Maine families.

Last session, I proposed removing the 100 MW restrictions on renewable hydropower. Expanding access to low cost hydropower makes economic sense.

This session, I am back before the Legislature with the same proposal because Maine needs and deserves lower energy costs.

I encourage this body to advocate for the Maine people, and not bend to the special interests.

Education

I am passionate about education. This passion is not an attack on public schools. I speak passionately because education is what saved my life and I cannot accept any child not being given the same opportunity I had.

As a homeless child on the streets of Lewiston, it never occurred to me that one day I could be a successful businessman, a Mayor or even Governor.

Finding my next meal and a warm spot to sleep was my goal. However, through all that hardship I knew that education was the key for me, if I was ever going to climb out of poverty, escape a life in prison, or life on the streets.

I needed the structure and discipline of a parochial school education provided.

This option allowed me to succeed, despite coming from a background of poverty.

I want every child in Maine to have the same opportunity I did, to pursue a quality education.
Last session, we passed charter school legislation. A topic that has been highly politicized, by administrators and big union bosses, despite the fact that Maine was the 40th state to adopt charter schools.

States like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota – hardly “red” states — have been successfully running charter schools for decades.

In fact, charter schools are part of the mainstream in the rest of the country.

Let me tell you why charter schools are so important to Maine.

Alex West is a student who is currently attending the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, formerly known as Goodwill-Hinckley. Alex, please stand.

Alex is from Hartland. He struggled in a traditional classroom setting, and was at risk of dropping out.

He chose to attend the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, and has gone on to take classes at KVCC. This charter school provided Alex with a bright future.

School choice should not be just for the wealthy elite. Rather as Horace Mann stated in 1846 – “Education is the great equalizer.”

Education is what brought Abraham Lincoln from splitting rails to leading our country though its greatest crises.
School choice benefits each and every Maine student who deserves the best education this state can provide.

Giving students options is more than charter schools. It’s the Maine Math and Science School in Limestone.

It’s the 10 town academies that have a track record of great success. It’s the Bridge Year program in Hermon, where high school students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in 5 years.

All students and parents deserve options, especially those who are economically disadvantaged.

Therefore, I am proposing legislation to give more educational options to all kids. We must fund schools that best fit the student’s needs.

In the case of students like Alex, we will even fund residential costs to attend a school like Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.

All Maine students deserve an equal chance of success whether you live in Cape Elizabeth or Fort Kent. This is how we break the cycle of generational poverty for Maine’s children.

Despite committed teachers, dedicated parents and concerned citizens – too many public schools are not getting the job done. Not only do we need more options for students, we need to improve outcomes in all public schools.

We have schools in Maine where only 23% of students are at grade level in reading and math upon graduation.

On average, only 32% of Maine 4th graders are proficient readers. By the eighth grade, that number only climbs to 39%.

Almost 20% of students drop out before graduation. Those of us in this room have the responsibility to fix this travesty.

Far too many graduates are unprepared for higher education. 50% of incoming community college students require remediation.

Far too many graduates are unprepared for the workforce. Employers are concerned that high school graduates do not have the basic math and reading skills necessary to succeed in the modern workplace.

We spend more than twice the national average on administrative overhead in our schools. In fact, on a per-pupil basis, Maine has the highest district administration costs in the nation.

This money should be going into the classroom, not funding more bureaucrats with questionable impact on our children’s education.

Public school administrators are in denial, and have taken a position that simply cannot be defended on the facts.
As a whole, Maine is not achieving academic growth at a competitive rate. This is unacceptable. But the good news is, we can reverse it.

Here is how we fix the problem.

First, we offer students options that work for them.
Second, we hold our schools accountable. We tell students, parents, and communities if their schools are failing or thriving. We help those that are falling behind and replicate those that are working well.

Tonight I am directing Commissioner Bowen to develop a ranking system for Maine schools. Each school will be graded A-B-C-D or F.

Students, parents, and communities will understand if their schools are good, average or failing.

Then, we help schools that are failing and reward schools as they improve.

The third way we fix this problem is to adopt best practices. I plan to hold a Governor’s Conference on Education this March.

We are bringing national experts to Maine to demonstrate what other states are doing to improve education.

We cannot stand still, we cannot wallow in the status quo and let the rest of the country and world pass us by. Instead, we must embrace the fact that we need to change and work together to solve this problem.

If you believe the status quo is working, you are the problem – not the solution.

If you have an open mind and if you are willing to put our kids first — I invite you to join me in this effort.

I’ll make this promise – I don’t care what party you belong too, if you are willing to put our kids first, to put aside issues like turf and money, we will get the job done.
Domestic Violence

Last session, we put politics aside and worked together to address domestic violence in Maine.

We amended Maine’s bail code, ensuring that judges determine the bail for domestic violence offenses.

We required abusers to pay into the Victim’s Compensation Fund. This provides financial resources to the victims and families of domestic abuse.

A number of other bills dealing with stalking and risk assessment were passed, and executive orders signed.

I want to thank Representative Ken Fredette and Senator Emily Cain for their leadership on this issue, and also for agreeing to sponsor a Governor’s Bill supporting our Batterers’ Intervention Programs.

Ending domestic violence requires abusers to change – batterers’ intervention is an important step in that direction.

As a youth, domestic violence hit close to home for me. I was not a spouse, I was a child.

It is important that we broaden the discussion about these heinous crimes.

Domestic violence is a crime that affects families. Family violence is domestic violence, and we need to focus on protecting all women and children.

Dealing with protection from abuse orders and firearms continues to be an issue with no simple solution.
Protection from abuse orders require people to surrender their firearms until further notice.

However, the enforcement for this is deficient.

Often police cannot do more than simply ask whether the person has surrendered their firearms.

That is why I am signing an Executive Order tomorrow creating a task force to address this problem.

Curbing domestic violence is an issue I take seriously and I value your help in this effort.

Conclusion

Maine families need help, and they are fed up with the partisan political rhetoric.

They want a lower cost of living and opportunities for bigger paychecks.

I have put my proposals forward, and I am open to hearing others. In order to succeed, we must put politics and gridlock aside and take bold action.

The time for talk has ended; it is now time for action. Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts and vision with you tonight.

God Bless Maine and God Bless America. Now, let’s get to work.”

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