Maine Gov. LePage says he stands ready to work with new Legislature

LEWISTON — Maine Democrats recaptured majorities in the state Senate and House of Representatives in Tuesday's election, and Republican Gov. Paul LePage said he stood ready to work with anyone who wants to put Maine people first.

Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press

Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Maine Republican Convention at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta this past May. As Democrats appeared poised to take back majorities in the Maine House and Senate on Wednesday, LePage said he stood ready to work with anybody who would put Maine people first.

"Here in Maine, we must come together to find solutions to our fiscal challenges that will lead to the recovery of our economy and improve prosperity for hardworking families and businesses," LePage said in a written statement.

The goals of his administration would not change, LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett said Wednesday.

She said the administration would continue its focus on two priorities in the upcoming legislative session set to start next month: implementing public education reform that puts students first and lowering the state's high energy costs.  

"The priorities stay the same; the strategy may change," Bennett said. "But again, the governor has a proven track record of working with Democrats as the mayor of the city of Waterville and it's something he is familiar with."

LePage still expects action from the Legislature, Bennett said.

"We need not just talk," she said. "We need action at this point. That's what the governor is interested in, seeing those plans and finding a way to move Maine forward."

She said all of the economic priorities for the administration, including increasing employment, wages and job security for Mainers, were still high on the governor's agenda.

High on the list of things for the next Legislature to tackle will be a state budget shortfall estimated at about $750 million. State law requires a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year in June.

Democrats have been critical of state income tax cuts that were promoted by LePage and enacted by the outgoing Republican majority. They've argued that part of the state's budget shortfall is the result of those tax breaks that were not paid for.

They have also challenged LePage and the Republican majority's changing of eligibility standards that push more people off the state and federally funded MaineCare health insurance program. The administration is in a legal dispute with the federal government over whether the state can reduce the program, which is part of the federal Medicaid program.

LePage and the Republicans have said the state's welfare and health care benefit programs are more generous than most states and Maine cannot afford such expansive programs if it hopes to maintain a quality safety net for "truly vulnerable" populations, including the elderly and the disabled.

Bennett would not speculate on how LePage would work with leaders in the new Democratic majority, but emphasized he was committed to doing the best by Maine people.

"What he says is true," Bennett said. "He does stand ready to work with anyone and everyone who is willing to put Mainers first."

Maine political observer and University of Maine at Farmington political science professor Jim Melcher said some of LePage's message was expected.

He also said that even with a Republican majority at his side, LePage often seemed disastisfied with the pace of change in the Legislature and often seemed impatient.

Melcher said he had heard some pundits suggest the new Democratic majority was a referendum on LePage's first two years in office, but Melcher would partially disagree with that analysis.

"To some extent I think that's true, but races in Maine for the Legislature tend to be a lot more about local personalities and whether you like that person, especially for the House," Melcher said.

He said Democrats tried to tie specific Republican incumbents in the state Senate to LePage. Ads attacking certain Republican senators for being a "rubber stamp" for LePage may have had some effect.

"If there was an anti-LePage vote, you could say that more readily about the Senate," Melcher said.

As it stood Wednesday, it appeared Democrats could win as many as 21 of the the 35 state Senate seats.

Outgoing Democratic House Minority Leader Emily Cain of Orono, who won her bid for state Senate District 30 on Tuesday, said Democrats would work to restore balance in Augusta.

“For two years we’ve seen Gov. LePage and his Republican allies push a partisan agenda that left our economy and the middle class behind,” Cain said in a written statement issued by party leadership. “Democrats are ready to get to work immediately on reasonable solutions that will strengthen the middle class, rebuild our economy and get Maine people back to work. (Tuesday's) victory does not mean that our work is done. It means it’s just beginning.”

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

John Frecker's picture

Politicians

Governor LePage and the Democrats have shown that they know the proper words to say; now let's see if they can convert them to action.

Diana Currier's picture

LOL

cringing are we..... you have no choice but to work with them, your welcome hehehe

Amedeo Lauria's picture

The Governor knows...

the best way to help the middle class is to make Maine a business friendly state.

He knew that before the election and he knows it now.

Harry Reid is already talking about raising taxes; a job killer but not surprising.

The best cure for poverty is a JOB and self-reliance, that was the GOP position before the election and it will continue to be the position of conservatives.

Great that the left can celebrate when we have 7+% unemployment, the biggest debt in the history of our nation, a foreign policy in shambles and, here in Maine, the one of highest energy costs in the country; thanks to our current administration in Washington.

Let's hope it's a mild winter or more will join the ranks of the poverty stricken in Maine.

 's picture

Harry Reid

Harry Reid, 80 CEO's in an open letter to Congress, Warren Buffet, John Boehner and others are talking about raising taxes. At least raising taxes for some. More accurately ending prior tax cuts for the wealthy which add trillions to our deficit each year. Extremism is dead. Time to end the tax cuts, cut spending and work together. I'll say it again, extremism is dead. Hop on board.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

A big sigh of relief for many folks in my boat.....

For maybe the second time that I can remember, Lepage has mentioned the disabled in a positive light. For the second time since the election, he has expressed his wish to secure a "safety net" for those most vulnerable and our disabled. Up to this point, this was where Lepage did his banking. He needed to save money to balance his budget, where does he go? For a while here in Maine, and everywhere for that matter, if your sick and disabled, your fair game for saving money. Romney/Ryan plans called for picking apart and increasing the cost of Medicare and Social Security,
Something a lot of people, who may never even think about it, don't realize is, when your on SSDI, it's more than likely not intentional, I wasn't expecting it at 48 myself. The monthly check isn't much, but the health insurance, although expensive, is very helpful. To have someone even hint at taking away that help, help I payed into for thirty plus years, is scary as hell. Me personally, I'm not as afraid when I hear LePage, wondering whether to cut prescription coverage for the elderly or take some young kids off Mainecare. I have a contingency plan. Whether or not he can actually do it doesn't matter. Just talking about it scares a lot of people needlessly. I just hope these people can start feeling safe again, because being sick in itself, is a full time job.......

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Regardless of what is said, I

Regardless of what is said, I honestly believe the people of Maine have spoken and are sending a message to the governor that they are fed up with his bullying ways, his intimidation, and his threats. The people resolved this by putting in place a group of people who will not let him get away with this. Now Governor, if you want something you better have real proof and not exaggeration, rhetoric, or threats.

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

Emily Cain's words should be

Emily Cain's words should be reverberating in both the local and national Republican headquarters. The Democrats have accomplished a great PR feat by convincing the voters that they are for the "middle" class and that the Republicans care only for the Rich or the 1%.

Unfortunately this validates the old saying that if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it.

The Republicans must now disprove this allegation and demonstrate that they indeed are the ones that represent the working and average American while the Democrats should be exposed as representing the elite, special interests, and welfare classes. Also, a return to showing the American voters that the Democrats are in reality the TAX AND SPEND party is in order. Certainly many will be surprised at the cost of "FREE" healthcare in the Obamacare legislation.

 's picture

policy

I guess the whole election thing means most Mainers don't like gop ideology.

RONALD RIML's picture

"Maine People First"

- Unless you were the member of a Labor Movement

Then we have to hide and your murals away in a undisclosed warehouse......

Phyllis Hyde's picture

Putting Mainers first

I think Gov. LePage and a Democratic legislature will have different definitions of who constitutes "Mainers" and how best to put them first.

I think everthing that LePage proposes should come with a direct statement from him of which Mainers he's trying to help and how his proposal will directly help those Mainers he has defined for that proposal.

He should have his feet held to the fire for the next two years, to add substance to his rhetoric. And after two years, then we can boot him out.... I'd like to see Eliot Cutler run again.

Mike McAllister's picture

MHPC

Can you say "goodby Maine Heritage Policy Center"?

Jason Theriault's picture

He said the same thing when he assumed office.

He said the same thing when he assumed office.

Of course, then came the reality that he is full of it. Who can forget his secret plan to piss off the democrats:

"I think we can get it done in about a day and the Democrats, if you think they hate me now… Wow."

I gave him a chance, and then he went all mural-busting, daughter-hiring, girls might get a mustache-ing.

 's picture

"Here in Maine, we must come

"Here in Maine, we must come together to find solutions to our fiscal challenges that will lead to the recovery of our economy and improve prosperity for hard-working families and businesses," LePage said in a prepared statement.

That would be a new experience for him.

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