AUGUSTA — Promising to move Maine toward a new era of economic prosperity, Gov. Paul LePage this morning was sworn into office at an inauguration ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center.
LePage, the state's first Republican governor in more than 16 years, outlined a plan to make Maine more hospitable to business by reducing its regulatory and tax burden.
Maine's new governor didn't unveil specific policy proposals, but during a 32-minute speech in which he deviated from prepared remarks several times, LePage underscored his pro-business, pro-jobs agenda, saying the word "profit" eight times.
"Profit is not a dirty word," LePage said. "In fact, it is the direct and indirect solution to all our challenges."
LePage said his pro-business agenda would not come at the expense of regulations.
"We need a cooperative relationship between regulators and the private sector," he said.
LePage also promised a government that would put people first.
"The word 'people' appears in the Maine Constitution 49 times," he said. "You cannot find a single mention of the words 'politics,' 'Republican,' 'Democrat,' 'Green' or 'independent' in 37 pages of preambles, articles and sections of our state constitution."
He added, "The framers had it right. People come before politics."
LePage promised to hold monthly breakfast meetings with groups of teachers, business leaders and environmental groups.
"Solutions and oatmeal will be on the menu," he said.
He also planned to reintroduce town hall meetings in each of Maine's 16 counties, a practice first created by Republican Gov. John McKernan.
LePage promised to focus on education, vowing to make Maine the best in the nation in learning. He said he wanted to bring back vocational training to high schools and a five-year high school program that would give students credits toward an associate's or bachelor's degree.
"I really hope both sides of the aisle can come together in educating our most important asset, our kids," he said.
LePage also promised an overhaul of the state welfare assistance, which, he said, shouldn't be "a lifetime career."
"We must focus our efforts to change from dependency to self-sufficiency," he said.
LePage said that although Mainers are generous, the state has limited resources. He said he planned to focus its public assistance resources on Maine residents, a declaration that drew thundering applause from portions of the crowd.
LePage will oversee the first Republican-controlled Legislature in decades. Despite those advantages, he acknowledged his agenda will encounter resistance.
"I do not care about editorials, opinion polls or the next election," he said. "I have four years and a job to do."
He added, "Being governor is not about me, my administration, the Legislature or Augusta bureaucrats. It is about Maine people, and I'm going to let Maine people be the judge in the next four years."
LePage was joined by several members of his family, including his wife, Ann, daughter Lauren, son Paul and adopted son Devon Raymond, as well as family members from his first marriage.
Bruce Myrick, of Sabattus, also spoke during the ceremony. Myrick was one of a few individuals credited with helping LePage turn his life around after a hardscrabble youth on the streets of Lewiston.
Myrick said that although he and others receive credit for assisting LePage, it was Maine's new governor's ambition that changed the course of his life.
"It was Paul who worked hard to succeed and overcome," Myrick said.
Four of Maine's six former, living governors attended the ceremony, Gov. John Baldacci, Gov. Angus King, Gov. McKernan and Gov. Joe Brennan.