AUGUSTA — In a pair of blistering missives to State House leaders Tuesday, Republican Gov. Paul LePage charged lawmakers with doing little to help the state’s sagging pulp and paper industry and asked when the Legislature is going to “wake up.”

He also labeled Democratic lawmakers as “job killers” and accused them of misleading the media about a meeting he hosted earlier in the day meant to discuss policy changes that could help improve Maine’s business climate in the wake of the news that Madison Paper is closing in May and leaving more than 200 jobless.

In his second letter addressed to House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, LePage said he and lawmakers discussed several ideas and issues that he believes have led to the industry’s decline in Maine, including the state’s high energy costs and its unfriendly tax climate for businesses.

“You and other Democratic leaders came out of our meeting today and immediately whined to the media that we did not propose constructive solutions for creating jobs and improving our economy,” LePage wrote. “That is simply not true.”

He went on to write, “the real problem is our common-sense solutions do not fit in with your socialist, job-killing agenda.”

But Democratic leaders said LePage’s back-to-back letters were no surprise to them, and that in some respects they’ve become accustomed to being attacked by LePage in times of crisis.

“On today’s meeting, I’m glad he invited us in,” said Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “I think it’s important for Mainers to realize the Legislature and the governor are working together — not only on paper mills but also biomass — because the entire industry is under severe, severe crisis.”

Alfond said LePage’s missives were par for the course as he tries to fix blame on others, but said he and other Democrats in the Legislature intended to stay focused on doing what they could to help those losing their jobs in Madison.

“The letters that he sends to us, basically making these outrageous statements, are so counterproductive,” Alfond said. “It’s not helping the 214 families that are now waking up with the new reality that they are not going to have a job in May. It’s not creating confidence for the existing paper mills, the existing biomass facilities.”

Alfond said Mainers didn’t expect their governor and lawmakers to place blame, but to work together to solve problems.

“My head’s going to be down; I’m going to keep working hard,” Alfond said. “I’m going to just let the governor keep insulting, but insulting serves no purpose — but then at a certain point, we’ve just become numb to all of his antics.”

Some of LePage’s Republican allies, however, said they understood the governor’s frustration as he has been urging lawmakers to change state policies around energy and taxes for nearly six years to no avail.

Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, said LePage’s letters were an attempt to make his message clear and not allow it to be distorted by those who would oppose him.

“So that no one can assume what he means or put words in his mouth, he sends the letter so he’s very clear about where he’s at,” Espling said. “So you don’t have random, different interpretations of what went on.”

Espling said the rapid decline in Maine’s paper industry, which will be down to just six mills following the closing of Madison Paper, is really the culmination of years of poor policies.

“It all has to come to a head — but these are policies that Maine should have tackled years ago,” Espling said. “There was so much that should have been done before, and I think that’s (LePage’s) frustration.”

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LePage letter to lawmakers on Madison Paper

LePage letter to Eves and McCabe


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