AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday reiterated his pledge that no bills passed by the Legislature will get his signature until lawmakers, who he likened to children in day care, agree to pay off debts to Maine hospitals with proceeds from a renegotiated liquor contract.
“If they don’t pay the hospitals, what can you do?” said LePage, apparently referring to Democrats who have proposed an alternative to his plan. “If they don’t want to pay the hospitals and they do what they did 10 years ago, you can only lead a horse to water.”
In response to a reporter’s question about LePage’s threat last week to veto every bill that comes to his desk until the hospitals are paid, LePage said, “until they pay the hospitals, nothing gets done. Nothing.”
LePage originally made the veto threat Friday morning in a radio interview. Adrienne Bennett, his spokeswoman, softened that stance later in the day and said the governor would sign bills that have broad bipartisan support or would help Maine’s economy. His comments Wednesday contradicted that.
“If they want to just use that as a political ball, let them use it,” said LePage. “But that is stupidity on their part. The hospital bills should be passed now. We should be selling them now. We should be putting the money in the hands of the hospitals now.”
LePage’s comments to reporters came Wednesday morning after he tapped a maple tree on the Blaine House lawn to commemorate the beginning of the syrup season. He also responded to a party-line vote Tuesday in the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee, where Democrats voted against Jonathan McKane, LePage’s nominee for the Dirigo Health board of directors. LePage called the Democrats’ vote a “game.”
“They play games instead of doing the work of the people,” said LePage. “Let’s get over this. Maine people ought to insist that their elected officials come to Augusta and do serious work for the people of Maine. That’s why they were elected. If they want to play these silly games that’s fine. You know, it’s like a day care over there,” he said, referring to the State House.
The governor was also asked about recent news that Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud might run for governor. LePage said he hasn’t made up his mind for sure about whether he’ll run for governor and mentioned, perhaps jokingly, that maybe a congressional campaign is in his future.
“Maybe I’ll run for Congress, who knows?” he said. “Everything’s got a price in this world and going to Washington would be the death of me.”
Democratic leaders reacted to LePage’s comments by saying he was exhibiting poor leadership with his veto threats.
“Is that the type of governor we need that is not doing things to help farmers and businesses?” said Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the assistant Senate majority leader. “I guess I would throw that back onto him. Is that the type of governor we need that is not doing things to help farmers and businesses? It’s just not leadership. That’s not what a governor is supposed to do.”
Jackson said attempts by the governor to intimidate people won’t work in the State House.
“We are all adults, maybe minus him,” said Jackson. “But that’s not how you run the state government by trying to threaten and intimidate people.”
Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, assistant House majority leader, said he’s started to hear reactions to the governor’s style from constituents.
“I’m hearing from people back home,” said McCabe. “They are viewing this as irrational behavior on the governor’s part. It’s really disappointing.”
Lewiston Sun Journal political editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report.