DEXTER, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage told the Dexter Sunrise Kiwanis Club on Friday morning that he’s running out of patience trying to balance the state budget, which is reportedly facing a $75 million deficit.
So he’s considering taking legal action against the Appropriations Committee.
“I’m going to insist that the budget be balanced. The constitution of the state of Maine requires it and it hasn’t been balanced since I’ve been governor,” Le Page said. “In January, I’m going to urge them (Appropriations Committee) to balance it; and if they don’t, I’m going to sue them in Supreme Court for violating the constitution of the state of Maine. I think it’s time we take a bold move … I don’t intend to put a supplemental budget in. So if it’s not balanced, I will go to the Supreme Court.”
LePage added that he was “tired of people using accounting gimmicks. We’ve walked away from the mental health problem when we should have put $200 million toward fixing it.”
LePage, who is facing a tough reelection campaign next year, told the Kiwanians that he considers some criticism as a compliment. “I was a little angry because The Week (magazine) described Chris (Christie) as the ‘combative charismatic governor of New Jersey.’ And they call me a bully. So I send them a card and asked them how I can become combative and charismatic?” he quipped.
The governor cited many accomplishments during his administration, but he also took potshots at the Democratic majority on several occasions. For example, he described the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, as a “massive disaster. Any idea that’s it’s going to be fixed by Dec. 1 is not going to happen. And the opposition (in Maine) wants to expand MaineCare.”
LePage said that there are 3,000 Maine residents who are dual-qualified for MaineCare and Medicare “and we can’t give them services because we don’t have the money. They’re on a waiting list. But yet there are 70,000 people they (Democrats) want to put on welfare.”
LePage said that the 3,000 “are people with severe chronic illnesses or who are intellectually disabled and they’ve been kicked to the curb. The price tag to help them is $48 million a year.”
The governor said that out of the 70,000 potential MaineCare clients, “35,000 of those folks are going to get subsidies if they go to the federal exchange. But the Democrats don’t want them to get subsidies. They want them to get 100 percent free health care.”
LePage said that in his view, the major reason the balance of power in the Legislature switched to the Democrats in 2012 “was because of a massive meltdown in the Republican party … it started at our convention when the party splintered in two parts because of the Romney-Paul division. We took a good licking.”
But he noted that on Nov. 5 of this year, Robert McDonald, “a conservative Republican was re-elected in Lewiston with 61 percent of the vote. People are tired of being lied to. They’re tired of watching people go to Augusta and not getting the job done.”
He joked that the audience “may not want to listen to a lot of stuff I say. What I do is more important.”
He also refuted charges that education funding has been cut on his watch. “We put $63 million into education more than any other governor. It started with $80 million, but the folks upstairs (Appropriations Committee) cut education, increased taxes and didn’t balance the budget.”
LePage cited a recently study that showed that Maine students are 49th in the country in math; and in language arts we’re 48th … But we only require two years of math in high school … and we’ve gone to a new kind of ‘creative English.’ We don’t do much grammar anymore. So you’re not going to have the standings, don’t expect to have the results.”
The governor added that the education has “two winners and two losers. The losers are the teachers and the students, and the winners are the administrators and the unions.”
LePage also stated that his administration “lowered taxes because it was the right thing to do. Mainers cannot afford to pay more. Democrats will tell you that I favor tax breaks for the rich. But 70,000 families in Maine who make $19,000 a year or less will no longer pay income tax. Now if $19,000 is rich, I’m way overpaid.”