June 19, 2018
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Nonprofit group criticizes LePage administration policies’ effect on Maine, citizens

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Gov. Paul LePage
By Robert Long, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Critics of Gov. Paul LePage launched their latest assault on the Republican governor with a scathing 22-page report.

Titled “Failing Maine: How Maine has suffered (and continues to suffer) under the administration of Governor Paul LePage,” the report, prepared by the nonprofit Maine’s Majority Education Fund and due to be released Wednesday morning, responds to a state government publication called “ Making Maine Prosperous: The First 500 Days of Governor Paul LePage.”

The report’s stated goal is to “examine the true legacy of LePage’s first 500 days and the real effect his policies have had on Maine’s working­ and middle-class families.”

Chris Korzen, executive director of Maine’s Majority Education Fund, described the new report as a “more accurate portrayal of what the administration put out” in “Making Maine Prosperous.” He said organizers spent 2½ months compiling “accurate but not ideologically driven data … to show that Maine is faring differently than what the administration says.”

“The administration has been driven by ideology rather than the human effects of policy,” Korzen told the Bangor Daily News. “Its metrics of success are tax rates and the bottom lines of corporations.”

In response to the report’s introduction and a summary of its section on jobs, Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokeswoman, characterized the release of “Failing Maine” as a political maneuver designed to influence voters before the November legislative elections.

“If passing Maine’s Majority’s test means we have to take on more debt and increase taxes, then we’ve failed,” she said in a phone interview.

The cover of “Failing Maine” shows dark clouds forming over the State House and directs readers to the website, www.failingmaine.org, that will become available Wednesday morning, according to Korzen.

The report then takes aim at LePage in seven areas where its authors believe his policies have failed Mainers: jobs, special interests, health care, natural resources, education, working families and “shaming Maine.”

“Since taking office on Jan. 5, 2011, Gov. LePage has repeatedly claimed that he is fighting to make Maine prosperous,” the report’s summary states. “But his policies and approach to government have done more harm than good to the people of Maine.”

“Failing Maine” mimics “Making Maine Prosperous” by peppering its pages with inflammatory quotes from LePage, unflattering photos, graphs and highlighted statements such as “Maine lost 1,300 jobs during Paul LePage’s first year as governor.”

Each section lays out the authors’ case against the LePage administration’s policies with footnoted statements supported by two pages of references at the end of the report.

“LePage’s policies have not put Mainers back to work” tops the section about jobs. It lists statistics about job losses during 2011, the governor’s first year in office, and comparisons showing that Maine’s economy fared poorly against other New England states.

“In May 2012, Moody’s Investors Service lowered Maine’s outlook rating from stable to negative, in part because of the irresponsible economic policies the LePage administration pushed through,” the report states.

The governor’s spokeswoman Bennett challenged that assertion. “What Moody’s indicated is that we’re moving in the right direction by cutting welfare programs in order to create a more affordable and sustainable system,” she said.

LePage’s health care initiatives warrant attention from two separate sections of “Failing Maine.” One lists reasons why “LePage has made it harder for many to afford health care.” Among the measures cited in the report are cuts to the Drugs for the Elderly Program; the Medicare Savings Program; payments for Medicare Part A and B deductibles and coinsurance; and MaineCare coverage for “more than 14,500 working poor parents who have no other ac­cess to affordable health care.”

On a separate page, the report lays out the authors’ case as to why “LePage’s health care policies benefit insurance companies.”

Other sections take the governor to task for environmental policies, placing the interests of business over those of working families, and education reform that “hurt students and teachers” and “puts corporations ahead of public schools.”

“Failing Maine” concludes with a list of ways in which the authors contend that “LePage has embarrassed Maine and hurt our national reputation.” One photo, under the heading “Shaming Maine,” shows Comedy Central television host Stephen Colbert in the midst of a routine about the LePage administration’s decision to remove a mural from the Department of Labor office.

“The election is clearly on the mind of this group,” Bennett said. “If you step back and do your homework, you will see a lot of smart policies that are moving Maine forward rather than backward, It’s really about reining in spending and not cannibalizing other parts of government to pay for welfare programs.”

Korzen dismissed Bennett’s assertion that the report is a politically motivated attempt to influence the outcome of the upcoming election.

Describing “Failing Maine” as primarily an effort to provide Mainers with information based on data rather than ideology, Korzen said his desired outcome from releasing the report would be “a more robust conversation about how public policy affects the lives of everyday Mainers.”

Maine’s Majority Education Fund plans to post the report on its website Wednesday morning, then use the website to provide ongoing updates of its research.

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