Those include continuing to lower the state’s income tax, to reduce the cost of energy, to reform welfare programs and to lower the cost of higher education.

But in his characteristic blunt-talking style, LePage also alternately took shots at two of his favorite targets: the Legislature and the Maine media. At one point he chastised the news reporters in the room.

“All of you in the press, you have no clue who I am,” LePage said.

Taking aim at the Legislature, he lamented lawmakers’ unwillingness to lower the state’s income tax as much as he would like. He repeated his attack that a third of all lawmakers were little more than rubber stamps for their party leaders, while another third were only in politics for self-interests.

And while the Legislature over the past five years has lowered the state’s top income tax rate from 8.5 percent to a 7.15 percent, LePage said that was still well above the New England average of 6.6 percent and the national average of 5.5 percent.

“Not very good progress,” LePage said. “Not a very dynamic way to move forward.”

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The governor also lamented the state’s per-capita income as among the lowest in the nation, suggesting the state’s tax policies, coupled with its high energy costs, had been stifling the economy for decades. He said lawmakers and former governors have been unwilling to break that status quo.

“How many years have we been below the national average for per-capita income?” LePage asked the audience. “Just look back, go backward and look; it’s been most of our lifetimes. So if you keep doing the same thing and expect different results – good luck.”

LePage said he has tried to get lawmakers to spend more on hiring additional agents for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to crack down on drug dealers and fight the state’s growing opioid addiction problem. He said his request for funds for an additional 22 drug agents was reduced to 14 and eventually to two by the Legislature.

“We are spending somewhere around $76 million in the last year — $76 million, folks — on treatment and rehabbing people with opiate addictions,” LePage said. “We spend $3 million a year on getting the traffickers; that’s all: $3 million a year.”

LePage said those trafficking drugs were not users but nefarious business people and his emphasis on more law enforcement would help stem the flow of drugs that he said are “killing our kids.”

State Rep. Gina Melaragno, D-Auburn, one of two lawmakers in the room Wednesday, said later that LePage was correct in his assessment of drug dealers as businesspeople, but she disagreed with his approach. She said the way to stop the problem was with more addiction treatment and education.

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“I think we should be investing in treatment centers instead of highly paid personnel to prosecute drug crimes,” Melaragno said.

Melaragno also said LePage promotes income tax cuts as a key cure to the state’s long-flagging economy but fails to mention that reducing the income tax would result in an increase in sales and property taxes.

“The wealthy will reap more of the benefits with income tax cuts than working and middle-class people,” Melaragno said. “Working and middle class see their sales tax go up, see their property tax cut go up, so in effect they are funding this decrease in income taxes for the wealthy.”

The Auburn visit was the second by LePage to the Twin Cities in as many weeks. LePage’s communications staff said the town hall-style meetings would continue in November after LePage returns from a trade trip to Japan and China this month.

LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor would like to visit Aroostook and Knox counties next to take his message directly to the people.

But Melaragno said she suspects LePage’s recent campaign with town hall meetings around the state are more an attempt to distract Mainers from legal issues the governor is facing around his role in the firing of House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, from a nonprofit school he was hired to lead.

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Eves, before he even started at the school, had his contract canceled after LePage threatened to pull state funding for the school if it hired Eves. The issue has been the focus of an investigation by the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, and Eves has separately filed a civil lawsuit against LePage over the action.

“It just appears as though it could be sort of an attempt at distracting people from the fact that he could be facing impeachment and that quite possibly he’s done something illegal – or at least one thing illegal,” Melaragno said referencing the Eves scandal.

Some lawmakers have suggested LePage may be impeached over the matter, but others have said that’s only a remote possibility.

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