PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage encountered stiff criticism to his proposed MaineCare cuts in northern Maine, leading to a sharp exchange during the first of three stops.
Judy Paradis, a former state legislator from northern Aroostook County, criticized LePage during the meeting, saying, “You come off as a bully,” according to a citizen’s videotape of the session.
LePage, seeking to emphasize the state’s financial predicament, asked, “What planet are you on?”
The exchange happened Tuesday in Fort Kent during a public workshop used to explain LePage’s budget proposal calling for major cuts in MaineCare. On Wednesday, a second forum was moved to Northern Maine Community College to accommodate a larger crowd than initially anticipated, about 250 people, some of whom had to stand.
LePage said Tuesday that MaineCare cuts are needed to avoid having the program run out of money by April 1. Cuts in benefits and eligibility are needed to close a $221 million state budget gap through mid-2013, the governor said. Many of those attending the sessions were concerned about cutting funds for private nonmedical institutions, or PNMIs.
Democratic state Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake expressed a willingness to find another way to keep the PNMIs funded. Martin serves on the Appropriations Committee, which deals with budget matters.
Thursday’s final meeting will be at the Houlton Higher Education Center. The workshops are organized by the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging. LePage only attended the first meeting in Fort Kent.