AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage called on the people of Maine to hold state lawmakers accountable for crafting secret budget deals in closed-door meetings and beyond the view of the public.

LePage on Wednesday stood before a small artificial Christmas tree decorated with the photos of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who LePage said were responsible for loading a recently passed state budget with “pork.”

To make his point, LePage picked up a toy pig from beneath the tree and squeezed it to make an oinking sound.

During the news conference outside his office, LePage said the process State House leaders used to produce a budget just under the wire of a government shutdown had been going on for years.

“They all sit in darkened rooms when everybody else is in bed and they make these little deals among themselves,” LePage said. 

Top State House leaders from both sides of the aisle on Tuesday unveiled a two-year state spending package that included changes to the state’s welfare system and income tax cuts for most taxpayers.

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LePage said the budget was still laden with pet projects added to the budget by negotiators and without public input or discussion.

“The fact of the matter is that Maine people have to demand better of their elected officials,” LePage said. “We have to demand better and more to do the job of the people and to do it as honestly as possible.”

Advocates of state government transparency and some lawmakers Tuesday also criticized the last-minute budget negotiations held mainly by House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick; Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport; House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport; and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland.

LePage said that when there is surplus in the budget, the Legislature finds ways to spend it, usually by way of closed-meeting negotiations.

“I may not be very articulate,” LePage said, holding up the toy pig and squeaking it twice, “because I came from the streets, but this is really sad because this is what is going on and has for years. We need Mainers to understand that their government is corrupt and it has been for years.”

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