AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday evening that he has vetoed five bills that were passed by the Legislature last year and let another 11 go into law without his signature.
All of the bills were passed last year within 10 days of the end of the legislative session, which by law means the governor has three days after the start of the session that began Wednesday to either veto them or let them go into law.
The vetoes push LePage’s record-breaking tally for the first session of the 126th Legislature to 187 vetoes. Four of the five bills were sponsored by Democrats and the fifth, a budget bill, did not have a sponsor but was supported strongly by Democrats.
The five vetoed bills were:
— LD 386, An Act to Reduce Tobacco-related Illness and Lower Health Care Costs in Maine, would require the state’s Medicaid program to provide tobacco cessation treatment for people who are 18 and older or pregnant. In his veto letter, LePage objected to the fact that there would be no co-pays or cost sharing and said the bill “expands welfare unchecked.” Rep. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, who sponsored the bill and saw it garner overwhelming support, said science proves the effectiveness of providing anti-smoking tools, which in the long run could reduce the state’s costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses.
— LD 963, An Act to Expand Access to Early Postsecondary Education, would do just as the title implies. LePage wrote in his veto letter that he vetoed the bill because there was no funding allocated for it last year. He wrote that he would resubmit the bill to the Legislature this year.
— LD 1254, An Act to Increase Consumption of Maine Foods in All State Institutions, would require schools and state government agencies to ramp up how much Maine foodstuffs they purchase between now and the year 2035. LePage said he supports the premise, but called the bill an “unfunded mandate” that could prove unaffordable and possibly difficult for Maine food producers to satisfy. Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, said in a prepared statement Friday evening that the bill was “a commonsense economic development bill that would move the Maine food economy forward.”
— LD 1353, An Act to Further Reduce Student Hunger, would require schools where 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch to offer a federal summer food service program unless local voters opt out. LePage said it was “an irresponsible unfunded mandate.”
— LD 1572, An Act to Correct Minor Technical Errors and Inconsistencies in the Unified Budget Bill, made changes to the biennial budget bill passed last year, which LePage vetoed, though the Legislature overrode the budget veto. LePage vetoed LD 1572, which the Legislature enacted because of oversights in the budget bill, because LePage said it increases the tax rate on a range of services ranging from cable bills to supports for people with intellectual disabilities.
Overriding gubernatorial vetoes requires two-thirds votes of both chambers of the Legislature.
Among the 11 bills LePage is letting go into law were two for which he held ceremonial signings this week. They were LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food, and LD 1575, a resolve involving the placement of memorial plaques near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge between Lewiston and Auburn.