LIVERMORE FALLS — Gov. Paul LePage told local Chamber of Commerce members Friday that Maine needed to be less generous when it came to welfare and urged those in attendance to contact their lawmakers to support reform.
LePage spoke to the chamber in Jay Friday before visiting a medical center under construction in Livermore Falls.
LePage told members of the Jay, Livermore, and Livermore Falls Chamber of Commerce that he called the past session of the Legislature “reasonably successful.”
In many areas there was success but there is one area he is concerned with, he said.
He urged members to call their legislators in January in regards to welfare reform.
“The state of Maine is overly generous,” LePage said.
It causes people from other states to go benefit shopping and takes away from the “limited resources” the state has for its own people, LePage said.
LePage said he received an email from someone asking him if Maine could beat New Hampshire’s welfare benefits.
He told the person to not ask what “Maine can do for you, ask what you can do for the state of Maine. Have a nice life,” LePage said.
“It’s not that we don’t want to help, we don’t want to be in competition,” he said.
He also said he is going to propose random drug testing for those who receive welfare.
He believes that if the state is going to use its limited resources for them, that they should be able to be tested on occasion, he said.
The government is streamlining welfare programs, he said.
Among the topics LePage touched on was lowering energy costs, expanding natural gas pipeline, and improving education to meet the needs of the state’s children.
It’s not about money, he said, in reference to education.
“We are not doing a good job educating our children,” he said. “We are falling short.”
He said the state needs to increase focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
“That’s where the jobs of the future are coming from,” he said.
The worst thing that was done to students is going away from teaching technical and vocational education, LePage said.
He intends to push for technical and vocational education be brought back to both high schools and middle schools. The state needs to reduce is energy costs and have a skilled labor force to attract businesses from around the world, LePage said. The state also needs to have a friendly business climate and be open to help businesses succeed.
After taking some questions from Chamber members, LePage moved on to Livermore Falls to see Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington’s new medical center in Livermore Falls.
Construction is about two-thirds done, developer Kevin Bunker told the governor during the short tour, and it is expected to be done by January 5.
The hospital intends to move its outpatient services office and family medical services, both currently in Livermore Falls in two locations, into the building and offer more specialized services to the community.