AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage angrily deflected questions about taxes paid on a Florida home at a news conference Monday to present his plan to create jobs in a state he said "desperately needs" more jobs.
After concluding his jobs presentation, LePage was asked several questions about tax exemptions claimed in 2009 on homes in Maine and Florida. In both states, property owners can receive a tax exemption — but only for their primary residence.
The Kennebec Journal reported that LePage's wife, Ann LePage, claimed permanent residency in both states and could be fined in Florida.
LePage's campaign described it as a "paperwork error" and LePage declined on Monday to elaborate. Both homes are in his wife's name.
"I am running for governor, not my wife. I want to talk about the billion dollar shortfalls we have, and if you guys want to do the Enquirer, I'm not playing," LePage said.
In his job creation proposal, LePage envisioned what he called an "EZ Pass" strategy that speeds up new business requests and snips red tape and regulations he believes throw up roadblocks to both new businesses and existing businesses that want to expand.
In addition, LePage's "Turning the Page" plan calls for cheaper costs to set up a new business. The present $145 cost is one of the nation's highest, and he wants to cut that to a $5 first-step filing fee. He also wants to expand health insurance opportunities for workers in small businesses by reducing coverage costs.
"Maine desperately needs new jobs and we need lots of good jobs," LePage said. His opponents dismissed the plan as superficial and lacking new ideas.
Part of Lepage's job-creation program is built upon educational reforms. His "Learn to Earn" program would allow students to begin earning college credits while in high school, and would put more emphasis on training in technical fields like plumbing and electronics.
LePage also envisions a plan, similar to one used in other states, that helps potential employers reach high school students who are interested in going directly into the work force after graduation.
He mentioned a program in New York that links the building and construction trades with students to create apprenticeship opportunities. "If the goal of education is a good job, then it's time we think how we're going to get there," said LePage.
Independent candidate Eliot Cutler dismissed LePage's plan as "little more than bullet points, slogans and sound bites."