LePage touts accomplishments in first 500 days

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Regardless of what critics might say, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has done much of what he promised he'd do, pushing through tax cuts, reducing the state pension fund shortfall, paying back money owed to hospitals, and cutting Medicaid benefits that he said were too generous.

And he's commemorating his accomplishments in the first half of his term with a 20-page book that coincides with his 500th day in office on Saturday.

"With hard work and determination this administration is moving Maine back on a track to financial stability, streamlining government, and providing tax relief for thousands of Mainers," the governor said in his weekly address. "We are also making Maine more business friendly."

LePage's continued success in the remainder of his term will depend in large part on whether Republicans, which have narrow majorities in both legislative chambers, maintain control of the Legislature after the November elections.

The governor's announcement came Friday amid two conflicting signals.

Maine's April unemployment dropped 0.5 percent from a year earlier to 7.2 percent, but Moody's Investors Service warned that Maine's credit rating could be downgraded in the next 12 to 24 months based on concerns about the state budget, weak reserves and a slow economic recovery.

At times, Maine's blunt-speaking governor overshadowed his own agenda with rhetoric that drew national media attention, ranging from his "kiss my butt" remark to the Portland NAACP shortly after taking office to his latest comment about the state's middle managers being "as corrupt as can be."

"Sometimes it's difficult to separate the governor's words from what the Legislature has actually accomplished. There are those who have been critical of the governor's approach, but the fact is that we have passed a good portion of his policy agenda," Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said Friday.

In the Legislature, many of the actions were bipartisan, including adoption of five out of six budgets and budget adjustments. The most recent supplemental budget that made dramatic cuts to MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program, passed despite opposition from Democrats this week, however.

Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said the deep cuts to MaineCare served to underscore the differences between Republicans and Democrats.

"We just feel strongly that we must invest in people. That's not always the case in the policies put forth by the Republican Legislature and the governor," he said.

During his campaign, LePage, who was elected with tea party support, promised to streamline government, remove red tape, reform welfare, lower taxes, improve education system and reduce energy costs.

He can claim success in each of those areas.

Two state agencies were combined, and Department of Environmental Protection reduced its permitting backlog. A $400 million tax cut was touted as the biggest in state history, and income taxes were cut altogether for 70,000 Mainers. He boosted spending on education.

He also notes that energy prices dropped and the state's private sector grew by 4,100 jobs.

Goodall said LePage shouldn't be taking credit for lower energy costs, and he said the state's job creation remains too low. "We're 45th for job creation on a per-capita basis," Goodall said. "Forty-fifth is not a place where Maine should be."

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at http://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Maine: A Corporate State?

The divide in America is not between political parties and their ideologies, between religious beliefs, between rich and poor, or between value systems; it is between the corporate state and the citizen.

Paul LePage knows what he wants; a corporate state. Paul LePage, his staff, and his supporters clearly march to the following orders; establish optimal conditions for private firms to enter Maine so that they may profit without interference. The marching orders follow a simple set of principles.

• Eliminate outside influence on compensation and benefits.
• Consolidate control of operating expenses.
• Remove controls (regulations) impacting freedom of action.
• Establish barriers that prevent challenges to the corporate state’s control.

The marching orders are clear, concise; the guidelines are flexible, yet focused. Easily understood and executed in our world of sound bites and generalities; critical thinking is not required.

Removal of collective bargaining rights for Child Care Providers was a symbolic message to corporate entities “Maine is Open for Business, no wage or benefit concerns here” and to the citizens of Maine “your rights to fair compensation and benefits are controlled by the corporate state”.

The attempt to repeal the Maine ban of BPA, the harmful chemical found in plastic bottles, was another symbolic message to corporate entities “Maine is open for business, put what you want into your products” and to the citizens of Maine “don’t waste your time challenging the corporate state about health concerns because Paul LePage and his administration doesn’t care about your health”.

Educational Commissioner Steve Bowen’s dismissal of a citizen’s group shortly after Paul LePage’s comment that “all middle-management are corrupt”, was a message to corporate entities “Maine is open for business; if someone gets in your way, they’re gone”. Steve Bowen indicating he would develop the educational plan internally by the end of the year said to Maine citizens “you will not have input into your child’s education except through support of for-profit charter or religious schools”.

None of this is difficult to accomplish if you have the legislative votes and pre-written legislation (ALEC); critical thinking is not required.

Can it be more insidious? State revenue from within the state comes from state income, sales, and real estate taxes. Reducing the state income tax more than likely places additional burden on sales and real estate taxes; and that is Paul LePage’s intent. Those who can least afford real estate tax increases are the middle-class and working-class. Mainers will have to work harder and longer, for wages and benefits more highly controlled by corporate entities.

The message to corporate entities is “Maine is open for business, pay the citizens what you want, no one will get in your way because they won’t have the time or money to object” and to the citizens of Maine “go to Wal-Mart, treat yourself to a six-pack of PBR, sit on the porch and count your blessings”.

Elimination of the middle-class and working-class, is it social Darwinism or social genocide? Paul LePage doesn’t care what you call his actions, all he cares about is being CEO of a corporate state, and he is well on his way. Unless…(Thoughts?)

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