AUGUSTA — When he took office six years ago, Gov. Paul LePage took aim at a trio of problems he saw facing Maine: high taxes, costly energy bills and burdensome regulations.

“I’ve tried to address all three,” LePage said, “and I’ve failed miserably.”

The governor told a radio station recently that while he’s had some success in reducing income tax rates, he hasn’t been successful in swaying lawmakers on his energy proposals or efforts to cut red tape.

As the new legislative session gears up, there’s not much chance that LePage is going to find sudden success in his quests on any of the issues.

“It looks like it’s going to be the same-old, same-old,” LePage told a radio station this week.

Even so, LePage hopes to undermine the results of a Nov. 8 referendum in which Mainers voted to impose an extra tax that would kick in for income above $200,000 in order to raise additional money for education.

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The governor said he’s worried the new, higher tax for top earners will chase some businesses and well-off residents out of the state entirely.

Maine, he said, “cannot afford to move forward with the second highest income tax in America” when it remains so poor.

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said the budget is “first and foremost” in her mind. Holding down the taxes of top earners isn’t.

Showing once again that LePage’s priorities aren’t the same as the Democrats who hold the House, Gideon told WLOB recently that she wants to focus on economic development, especially in hard-hit rural areas, and on poverty.

Gideon also said it is “just not acceptable” that some Maine children are going to school hungry.

While LePage and the Democrats have different priorities, there are areas where common ground might be possible. LePage, though, doesn’t think his political foes are given to compromise.

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“Once I come on board, everything falls apart,” the governor said.

For six years, LePage said, the Democrats who control the House have said repeatedly they won’t give him anything that people might consider a win for the governor. “They say it in the hallways. It isn’t a secret,” he added.

Despite his pessimistic words, LePage has had some success.

As he put it in his second inaugural address two years ago, “We said we were going to lower taxes, and we did. We passed the largest tax cut in Maine’s history.”

While he’s said he would like to see the income tax eliminated entirely, LePage recognizes that voters in November increased the tax rates rather than pushing  them closer to extinction.

But he’s not inclined to let top tax rates rise because, he said, it would undermine Maine’s economy. He has repeatedly said state leaders have a responsibility to “do no harm.”

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Trying to hold taxes in check is one reason LePage said the budget proposal he’s working on is the most difficult one he’s faced. He has warned that he’ll seek big cuts, even in “really good programs,” to keep government in check.

On energy, LePage has argued against the push for more solar and wind power, insisting they’re too costly.

Instead, he wants to find ways to bring more natural gas to Maine and to buy cheap hydropower from Quebec, a move that lawmakers oppose because they want to encourage the expansion of wind, solar and other green sources within Maine.

So far, at least, LePage hasn’t swayed the Legislature.

Trying to reduce regulation and make it easier for companies to do business in Maine has also proven frustrating for the governor.

Though some changes he supported have been implemented, they haven’t gone nearly far enough for LePage, who insists the state has to do more to ease the way for new and expanding firms that can bring good jobs to Mainers who need them.

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There’s no sign that Democrats have any intention of rolling over for LePage’s agenda.

In a Democratic radio address this month, House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, said her party “fights for people” and is going to keep fighting on everything from lowering property taxes to raising wages.

“We don’t shy away from what we believe in. Mainers will know that Democrats are fighting for them in Augusta,” she said.

In short, LePage may see more failure on his key issues in his future.


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