BREWER , Maine — State leaders are working with Cate Street Capital to help the New Hampshire firm keep its East Millinocket paper mill operational, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday.
“We are trying to work with them, but it is difficult,” LePage said before he marched in the Bangor Fourth of July parade.
A paper mill in Nova Scotia that receives heavy Canadian government support competes with the new Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill for its share of the newsprint market.
That support “is playing havoc with the [paper] market, and with the market the way it is, it is very difficult” for non-Canadian businesses, LePage said.
“We need to go back to free markets. Government should really not run industry the way they do,” LePage said.
Cate Street officials have confirmed over the last few months that they are behind in their property tax payments to East Millinocket and Millinocket, about $1.6 million annually. Millinocket gets $900,000 annually; East Millinocket, $700,000.
LePage said he believes leaders at Cate Street and its subsidiaries are making a sincere effort to pay their creditors and launch an initiative to bring a torrefied wood machine to the new Great Northern Paper Co. paper mill site in Millinocket.
“I don’t know them well enough, but they have been very, very good,” LePage said. “When they meet with me, they say the right things and I believe they are really sincerely trying.”
Speaking on Acme Road at a rallying point for the parade before it turned strange and tragic, LePage expressed scorn at legislators who overturned his state budget veto.
“I am still disgruntled against them,” LePage said of the legislators. “They have been trying to disarm me my whole career. At least I have done something. A lot of my opponents have not.”
He indicated that he felt there were better things to talk about on such a sunny Fourth of July. The holiday, he said, should be especially cherished by Mainers who recall the heroics of Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain and the excellent soldiering of Maine troops during the Battle of Gettysburg.
LePage, his wife and other family members seemed to enjoy mixing with supporters before the parade started. LePage worked the crowd of bystanders energetically once the parade started and pledged to walk the entire route despite the sweltering heat.
“He’ll never get re-elected,” one supporter deadpanned. “He’s too realistic.”