Gov. Paul LePage is known for going off-script in his speeches, but not usually to tone down his rhetoric.
That was the case Tuesday evening, as the governor edited out more detailed attacks on “liberals,” taking out a whole passage attacking “liberals who continue to use our broken referendum process as a means of implementing their social engineering agenda.”
LePage instead left his critique to “big, out-of-state money” fueling referendums to change Maine law.
That’s just one of the changes that we tracked in our transcript below, that shows where LePage added, where he took away and where he stayed on script.
The governor made numerous notable changes on the fly, some reflecting more than others what was on his mind as he delivered his final and longest State of the State address.
If you see errors in the transcript, please leave a note in this document, so we can correct it.
Thank you so much.
Chief Justice Saufley, Members of the 128th Legislature, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens:
I want to briefly remember Paul Mitchell of Waterville, brother of Senator Mitchell who passed away this weekend. He was a dedicated public servant and a good friend. As I begin the last State of the State Address of my time as Governor of this great state, let me be first to thank my wife. Ann —Honey, please stand. — for her service to the people of Maine these past seven years. I would not be here tonight without you. Ann, you have made Maine proud as our First Lady, and our family is proud of you. First of all, she looked gorgeous. She has been unwavering as a representative from the governor to the people of the state of Maine, and she’s done it with grace, with dignity and she’s never said no that I can recall. She is just unbelievable. And in case I forget, happy Valentine’s Daytomorrow.
I also want to thank our children. I appreciate my family’s willingness to share my time with the duties of being Governor. And tonight there are two that are here. Lauren, who you’ve all heard and known. She’s been with me since 2010. Now she’s on her own trying to set her own career. And I want to tell you before it’s done she’s gonna tower over what I’ve ever accomplished.
My other daughter, Lisa, who has two children I am so proud of. And she has a son that’s very active. And all I can tell you is payback’s a bitch. Because I remember when she was young.
To Staff Sergeant Ronald Fowler of the Air Force’s 243rd Engineer Installation Squadron, the military herald this evening, thank you for your selfless service to the state of Maine and to the United States of America. our state and our nation. We congratulate you on being our state’s 2018 Outstanding Airman of the Year. Ann and I are grateful to all our military and their families for their service.
You make us very proud to be the outstanding officer in 2018 and I cannot be any happier and my wife and the first lady is so proud to be seated next to you as she is such a dedicated person of our military.
Little unusual, I’m going to thank a few people… to recognize a few people tonight. And one is Sergeant Angela Kooistra. And believe me, I don’t know how to really pronounce her last name, but she is head of the security detail and in our home at the Blaine House the rule is this, if my wife’s not around, Angela’s in charge. And the other one is Holly Lusk. Holly Lusk is my chief of staff who just took over recently and I was approached by the press and saying holy mackerel, you seem to be more assertive than you’ve ever been. Well, Holly has the distinction of getting me out of my shyness.
Tonight, I’m here tonight to speak to you about the future of our stateMaine. We have made some progress, but there is so much more we could have done and more that we can do to move our state forward. we should have done.
But as we move forward, I hope that you can get it done.
In his last State of the Union, President Ronald Reagan said: “If anyone expects just a proud recitation of the accomplishments of my administration, I say let’s leave that to history; we’re not finished yet. So, my message to you tonight is: very similar: Put on your work shoesboots; we’re still on theour job is not done.”
And that is my message for you tonight. Now is not the time to slow down. I will continue working until the last minute of my last day. Now is the time to working until the very last minute of my administration. The last day, as they inaugurate the new governor in 2019, I hope to take my lovely wife and I — sit back, take some rest and get to enjoy each other’s company once again.
I came into office saying I will put people before politics, and I have tried to do thatevery single day. But Politics as usual puts our most vulnerable Mainers at risk. As most of you know, I’m no fan of the status quo.
Today, special interests continue to highjack our ballot box and politicians continue to kowtow to wealthy lobbyists and welfare activists. The Legislature has forgotten about the Mainers who need our help the most. Our elderly, our intellectually and physically disabled and even our youth are being left out of the process. I vow to spend my final days as Governor fighting for those Mainers who don’t have a voice in Augusta.
For the last seven years, I have listened to liberals talk about compassionheard that the left is compassionate. Subsidizing solar panels for wealthy homeowners at the expense of our needythe poorest people in Maine is not compassionate. Raising taxes on hard-working families to expand welfare entitlements for able-bodied people is not compassionate. Catering to the activists in the halls of the State House instead of the struggling family businesses on Main Street is not compassionate.
I know what it’s like to need help and I know some representatives I see Craig Hickman right there, and we’ve talked about it recently — we know what it is to have a rough times. We understand that it’s not always easy. That’s why every Saturday I meet one-on-one with constituents one-on-oneSaturday mornings. That’s why I get involved in cases that affect our elderly and our most vulnerable. We talk about their problems. I have been accused of getting involved with people’s personal lives and trying to fight for them from my office. It is all our jobs. They need our help. It’s our job as elected officials to help them. We are, after all, public servants.
For the past seven years as Governor, my priority has been to make all Mainers prosper. And I have been fighting both sides of the aisle because I believe that both sides of the aisle need to be working closer together.
Too many Maine families are facing skyrocketing property taxes that strain household budgets.
Our elderly on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to these increases. You simply cannot tax your way to prosperity. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” School budgets are not commonly blamed, but are normally blamed forproperty-tax increases. The real culprit is the tremendous amount of land and property value we’ve allowed to be taken off theour tax rolls, leaving homeowners to pick up the tab. These landowners must contribute to our tax base.
It’s time for all land and real estate owners to take the burden off homeowners and pay taxes or a fee in lieu of taxes. The federal government does it! Maine property-tax peoplepayers— homeowners — need a break.
We, you and I, need to make sure that the large foundations — the Natural Resource Council of Maine who are ripping off the landowner in the state of Maine — need to step up to the plate. They could put all the land they want in conservation, but they have to contribute to society.
It’s going to be the same thing as last year: all those of you who have exercises during the course of this meeting, you’re welcome to the Blaine house. The rest of you, you know you got a break a sweat sometimes.
We proposed allowing municipalities to collect property taxes or fees from large non-profit entities, and we’ve tried to require land trusts to contribute to the tax rolls. We have been met with staunch resistance from the Democrats. Now, let’s talk about this.
We mustLet’s think outside the box. Tough problems call forneed tough decisions and solutions. I don’t walk away from tough decisions. And I think I’ve proven it many times, even this last weekend. And I’m not embarrassed to tell you, it’s the right decision. We need to be efficient and effective leaders for this state.
We established an online registry for all non-profits to report conservation-land ownership. The result of all property-tax exemptions reported within municipalities exceeds $18 billion.
Think about that: $18 billion. The loss of that tax revenue has shifted over $330 million to guess who?in property taxes onto the backs of local homeowners. Hardworking property owners in the state of Maine.
My office is distributing to each legislatorone of you the total value of property taken off the tax rolls for each town, along with the estimated increase in taxes paid annually by property ownersthat the annual homeowner has had to pay. It’s going to be out tomorrow.
You can run away but you can’t hide. The Maine people need your help and you need to stand up and be counted in this dialogue. It’s not — you can continue to put land on conservation and I compliment you for that. Let’s save the planet. But let’s pay a fair share. You need to pay your tax. Over 4 million acres have been conserved by the federal and state governments, as well as non-profit organizations, such as land trusts. Nearly 20 percent of our state is conserved from development. This is an area larger than the size of Connecticut.
Think about that. We have taken the state of Connecticut and made it tax exempt.
In 1993, about 35,800 acres of land was owned by land trusts. That number has increased by an astonishing 1,270 percent since 1993. Land trusts now control more than half-a-million acres with an estimated value of over $400 million.
I’m all in for conservation, but they need to contribute towards that hard work and Mainers in the state of Maine. We cannot just turn our backs and walk away. We need and could have a state that is very business prosperous as the state of New Hampshire. All we need to do is make sure that everybody contributes.
Ask your local officials how much land in your community has been taken off the tax rolls. Then Ask them how much in tax revenue it would be contributing today to help reduce your property taxes. The desire to preserve land without benefit to the taxpayers or their input is out of control. We must restore balance.We must ensure that all property owners are required to contribute to the local tax base. Everyone must pay their fair share.
Now I have listened to the fair share comment at least a thousand times in the last eight years. It’s not only here in the halls of government, but it’s in your communities. Everyone has to pay a fair share. It’s common sense. Richard and Leonette Sukeforth are the elderly couple who were evicted from their home due to their inability to pay their property taxes on their fixed income. Due to health reasons, Mr. and Mrs. Sukeforth were unable to attend tonight.
There are two or three other couples that have gone through the same thing and they are also elderly and weren’t able to get them arranged to get here tonight. But I will tell you this,In 2015, the town of Albion foreclosed on the Sukeforths‘ home and sold it for $6,500. The property was worth between $70,000 and $80,000. A compassionate neighbor offered to pay the taxes on the day the lien perfected butand the town officials refused to accept the money. Folks, the town refused.
I don’t believe there’s a person in this room whether they’re in the gallery or sitting here as elected officials that would think that that is a proper thing to do. If somebody walks in and who is willing to help these people why couldn’t they? I was told that it’s one example. I’m telling you, it’s a lot more. As we’re digging into it now, it is a lot more. A lot more than you realize. And I will tell you this, though, I will say this: we’re finding out that some of the cities are far more compassionate than some of the rural towns.
But it’s a problem. This couple was removed from their home. Mrs. Sukeforth was bedridden from a stroke. They lost everything. All of their equity and everything else.
The new ownerabutting landowner that bought it, demolished it and evicted them and demolished their home.I wish I’d have learned offrom the Sukeforth’s situation after the foreclosure had occurreda little earlier because we could have intervened and we tried. It was too late to help them. I submitted a Governor’s bill to protect the elderly from tax lien foreclosures going forward.
I am not suggesting — and if you need to sit with me and talk about changing the language of the bill, please work with me. I am not suggesting that we cannot and will outlaw foreclosing on elderly. What I am saying is very simply this: As a mayor for eight years in the city of Waterville, I never had to throw an elderly couple out of their homes because there are options. When you file a lien, it takes 18 months to perfect. A town official has 18 months to work with this family, and I urge you all to have the compassion to work with them so that we can preserve whatever little equity they have stay in their home for as long as they can. Because, ultimately, guess who picks up the tab?
I can tell you right now that Mr. and Mrs. Sukeforth are in a nursing home. They’re both very ill. And since they lost everything, we the people are picking up the tab. They didn’t want that. They were very proud people. Mr. Sukeforth is a veteran, elderly gentleman and he’s from the the greatest generation that they don’t ask for handouts.
We, the public officials of the state, threw them on the street. We must fight to protect our parents and grandparents whose fixed income cannot keep up with rising property taxes.This common-sense solution will require municipalities to put a little bit more effortbe aand show a little bit moreof compassionate to our eldersfor the people who live in their communities.
And frankly I don’t think that’s too much to ask. When I was mayor, we would have folks who had problems with their taxes, we would come in — and I see a counselor here that I shared in those meetings — that we’ve never had to throw people out. And there were some really sad stories, but we always found a way. And I think we, as Mainers, have the fortitude to do that. And we don’t have to make it very complex. It could be a couple of — a one paragraph: do everything you can before you foreclose. That’s all we ask.
Thank you. I want to thank Representative Espling for sponsoring this bill, and I truly, from the bottom of my heart, urge both chambers to pass ityou all to support this bill because it can be made very simple and it can be made so they will all want to do the right thing. And there’s many many options available to elderly. The problem is always been they simply don’t know. And so I think that’s a really good opportunity for this body. This is the right thing to do for our senior citizens.
I want to get into the tax conformity now, because I’m on a roll with taxes.
My tax cuts have resulted in tangible savings for Maine families. A family of four earning $90,000 pays 29 percent less than they did under the prior lawwhen we did the tax package. A family of four earning $35,000 no longer pays the $298 tax bill they did under the prior law who were paying $298 in income tax no longer pay income tax. Despite what my colleagues to my left saythe rhetoric you hear from people, this is not wealthy people. These are not tax breaks for the rich. These cuts are tax breaksmeaningful savings for hard-working familiesMainers.
People in the state of Maine’s per capita income is around $42,000. New Hampshire is $74,000 — the number one highest per capita income in the United States of America, they border our state and we haven’t figured out their secret yet.
We ought to try. The new federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act will provide more savings for families and businesses. The federal tax cut will result in an estimated economic benefit of approximately $1 billion in 2019. More than $500 million of that will be in direct income tax cuts for Mainersto Maine families and to small businesses in the state of Maine. Our small businesses will receive tax cuts of an additional $200 million. However, Whenever Congress changes the federal tax code, Maine must decide whether to conform our tax code to the federal changestax code or to stay on its own.
We have historically — and most states with an income tax have historically — stayed and conformed with the federal tax code. Doing soit is better for the taxpayerMaine because it simplifies the tax filingcode — it keeps one tax system. It is also better for the state because the IRS takes the lead on income-tax compliance, and we do not have to fund duplicate services, like additional auditors, in Maine. Not doing so means the state of Maine has to go on to its own and hire a whole lot of people and beef up their income tax division. For that reason, I will be proposing legislation to conform fully to the new federal lawtax code. However, since strict conformity would result in a tax increase to Mainers, my bill will include a proposal that offsets any tax increase. Let me make this perfectly clear: I will not support any conformity measure that results in a net increase in income taxes.
However, again, because of the hard work that’s been done over the last seven years — and in reducing our taxes dealing with the exemptions and the standard deduction, which the federal government is doing now — if we conform fully, we are going to be having a tax increase.
I am asking you all that this is really federal tax dollars and I’m asking you to pass it on to the Maine people. Conform, but pass it on. Because that’s the right thing to do.
And I’m asking you that if you don’t. I will not use the tax cuts the federal government is trying to pass on to all Americans. I will not stand in the way and allow it to conform and not pass it on. I’m simply not going to. In fact, I will not support ANY increase in taxes for either tax conformity or to pay for Medicaid expansionI think after seven years you probably got the hint that I’m not big on increasing taxes. Maine’s previous experiment with Medicaid expansion plunged our state into financial disarray. I do believe in conformity and I do believe in Medicaid expansion Medicaid expansion, while I think it’s a bad public policy when you give able-bodied people are free ride, itHowever, make no mistake: Medicaid expansion is the law of our state. andI will executeenforce the law of the state. That’s the good news.
Now, let me give you the bad news. Medicaid expansion is the law and I will execute the law, But funding it is the Legislature’s constitutional duty, as it is the Legislature’s job to appropriate the funds.Appropriate the money, so we can implement the law sooner than later. The time is now — not after the next election. I do not believe it’s appropriate for this body to wait until after the November elections. Do it now do it now. The people of Maine, if you believe in it, then fund it. I have laid out foursome basic principles to guide your decision on how to pay for Medicaid expansion. I will not jeopardize the state’s long-term fiscal health. We must avoid the budget disasters of the past. , and many of you were here and you know what I’m talking about. We paid off $750 million dollars to our hospitals. We must fund Medicaid expansion in a way that is sustainable and ongoing. Therefore, my principles are as follows:
1. No tax increases on Maine families or businesses.
2. No use of the Budget Stabilization Fund (which we callis better known as the “Rainy Day Fund”).
3. No use of other one-time funding mechanisms — known as budget gimmicks.
4. Full funding forthe vulnerable Mainers who are still waiting for services, and no reduction of services or funding for our nursing homes or people with disabilities.
It would be fiscally irresponsible for the Legislature to demand we implement Medicaid expansion without adequate funding. It is simply not too much to ask the Legislature to prioritize our truly needy over those looking for a taxpayer-funded handout.
I’m very serious when I tell you that it’s important that the disabled, the elderly and those with mental, intellectual disabilities, are put in front of the line and not behind the line. DHHS cannot hire and train the additional 105 staff needed to run the expanded Medicaid program without money. We cannot pay the state’s share of the new enrollees’ medical bills without funding.Democrats, hospitals, advocacy groups and wealthy out-of-state special interests who campaigned for this referendum claim that adding 80,000 people to a taxpayer-funded entitlement program will save us money. I will take you atto your word. Show me the money and put your planit in writing. Before this election, Show the Maine people how you will pay for Medicaid expansionthat what you campaigned on is the truth.
And I will be the first one to admit that I was wrong. But I will tell you. I have been trained in this business of finance for many many years. And there’s only two ways to fund this program. One is the way you say it could be done because there are savings and the other one is with new revenues. And either way, you have the responsibility to make sure that the executive branch and the Department of Health and Human Services has the resources necessary to move forward. And I’m ready to do it.
I ask Theresa Daigle and Josiah Godfrey to please stand up. If you look back at the top — These are the people you should be thinking about. Theresa has shared with me the hardships she and her son have experienced while awaiting services forby his physical and intellectual challenges. Joshua has autism, an intellectual disability, and bipolar disorder. He qualifies for services, but he is stuck on youra waitlist.
Because his mother will needs to need to care for him, it will be impossible for her to continue working. She has been told that she may need tocould leave Josiah at St. Mary’s — and refuse to pick him up — thus making him homeless — in order to qualifyand available for Section 21 services. Mainers, this is wrong. It’s absolutely highway robbery to do that to a Maine citizen who is actually a constituent of all of ours. And we need to take care of our own.
I ask that the Legislature fully fund these programs so people like the Daigles can get the help they desperately need and qualify for. I have proposed to fully fund them, but Legislators chose to use the money for other programs, like giving welfare to illegal immigrants. That is simply wrong. Maine people need to come first.
Do the right thing for Josiah and his worried mother. Fund the Section 21 and 29 programs.
It would be unconscionable to have to do the nuclear option and leave Josiah so he can get services. We are better than that, you are better than that, and we need to take care of it now.
Now I’m gonna get on my high horse. Now,Many legislators tell me that they don’t pass bad bills. Let me give the Maine people tonight an example of a horrible bill. I had a whole list, but I’ve decided to just cut it down to one that is current and one that I see — I feel very very passionate about and my family does. My wife does in particular, because she’s given so much of her time for the military.
I vetoed a bill that would prohibit 18-year-old adults from buying cigarettes, but the Legislature overturned it. This law denies rights and responsibilities to 18-year-old adults who want to purchase a legal product.
Folks, This is not about cigarettes — no one should ever start smoking, because it’s a little difficult to quit. Actually, I will say, it’s not not that bad, I’ve done it seven times. It is a terrible thing to do. But This is about protecting our personal choices from an ever-expanding nanny state.
Our laws must recognize one age when adulthood begins. You, the Legislature, must pick that age. You know, I don’t care what the age is, whether itif the age is 18 orand I don’t care if it’s 21, but it can’t be both. Legislators have no problem letting 18-year-olds vote for them in elections or die in wars.
Let’s think about that a moment — legislators think 18-year-olds are not adult enough to decide whether they should purchase cigarettes. But they think 18-year-olds are adult enough to vote on complex referendums like the legalization of marijuana, the elimination of the tip credit, and a 3 percent tax surcharge that would devastate our economy.
Think about that. Thank God. Thank God, that cooler heads prevailed. Because, economically, folks, that was an absolute financial disaster.
Just the period between November and the time in which we shut down government, 500 prominent affluent people said, “I’m done with the state of Maine.” It would have continued.
Young adults should be treated like adults. If 18-year-olds can fight for our country, pay taxes, get married and divorced and make personal medical decisions — and even younger teens can use birth control and smoke “medical” marijuana — then let‘s make adulthood start at18 years old be the maturity age. If they can do all that, they should be able to decide if they want to buy legal products.
The last I knew this was still a free country. That includes the freedom to make personal choices — free from government interference.
As a parent, I will tell you, I would much prefer 21, because I have a son. And when he was going through college, and when I was in college — because there are very few in this room there were around when I was in college. I mean, I was Abraham Lincoln’s roommate. But the point was, it was a draft. You didn’t have a choice then. And I will tell you, in Vietnam we lost 55,000 soldiers — 38,000 were 18-year-olds. Nearly 45,000 of the 55,000 were under 21.
Folks, if we’re going to put a rifle on their back and send them to war, I think we owe it to them to help them have the maturity to make the decision whether they could buy a pack of cigarettes or not. So, my message to you is: educate don’t legislate. It’s time.
We are the oldest state in the nation. , and We must attract young people to Maine. Matter of fact, I would prefer attracting young people to Maine. Our current position requires us to get serious about growing our state. I’m going to ask you all to Please join me in this effort. Let’s talk about it, let’s try to move in that direction.
I put forward a bill — I will put forth bills this session to support investment in Maine and the development of our workforce. We have spent seven years fixing Maine’s balance sheet. Now is the time to make investments in our economy and for the Mainepeople of the state of Maine.
Our bond sales have not focused on commercialization. I support a commercialization of bonds. Maine has always supported research-and-development bonds, hoping it would create jobsand that is good. Although R&DIt is critical, but it is not enough to bring anthe innovative ideaproducts to market.
Developing a patent that sits on a shelf is not a good return on investment for ourto the taxpayers, and that’s what’s happened in the past.
We must focus on commercialization. Most of our money in R&D has gone to universities has gone to Jackson the lab has gone for research and development and patents. And at one point, earlier on in my my tenure as governor, we had 37 patents on shelves collecting dust. Our innovators create a vast array of products in many industries: bio-tech; high-tech; forest products; manufacturing; aquaculture; agriculture. We must invest in commercialization as we doin addition to what we’ve done in the research. We have to do both.
Let’s get our products to market. Let’s offer excellent careers at high wages for our people. Let’s attract newcomers to our state. Let’s be who we used to be — innovators, creators here in Maine. We were leaders in the boating industry, we were leaders in the forest industry, in the paper industry. We were there, but we’ve got dumb, fat and happy. I had to go and lose 75 pounds to wake up. The bottom line is this: Maine needs to reinvent itself, and the time has come. We need to do it now.
I believe a commercialization bond will go a long ways at helping companies like NewPage who wants to put in a new tissue machine. It will go a long ways in some of the people that I will talk about in a little bit. There some great things happening and some great companies that are looking at Maine to come and invest. The paper companies may have left, but the 18 million acres of forest land is still here. Let’s reinvent ourselves, let’s get into better, more high-tech products. Let’s get into the 21st century and move this state, so we can catch New Hampshire.
But — and — it’s “but and“… If our state iswe are to survive and prospersucceed, we need to grow our workforce and keep our economy growing. Record numbers of baby boomers are entering retirement. Employers need to replace these skilled workers. For our economy to continue to grow, we must attract and retain young peopleworkforce. Not only will these young people work in our industries, but they will also buy homes, they will pay taxes, invigorate our communities and, yes, most important for Maine right now, is have children.
We need to have children. Our schools are losing population. We need to reinvent ourselves again and put more kids in our schools. My wife and I are done.
We can and should invest in our young people by relieving some of the burden of student debt for those who want to stay in Maine or choose to relocate here and to start their professional career. No one else is doing it. High student-loan payments prevent our young people from buying a house or a car or spending their money atin local businesses. Many take higher-paying jobs out of state to survive. They simply cannot afford to live in Maine.
That is unconscionable as parents. We should do everything we can to turn that around.
We cannot continue to sit by while ourand watch employers have vacant positions that young people could fill. I will be submitting legislation again to create anda fund initiatives thatto make these strategic investmentsin our youth. My initiative — the Maine Student Loan Debt Relief Program — calls for a $50 million bond to fund zero-interest student loans to keep Maine kids whoin school attending Maine‘scolleges and universitiesschools. It also calls for a new, low-interest refinancing program to encourage graduates from outside Maineother states to work in our great statemove to Maine.
And so many people that I’ve met in the course of the travels the last seven years will say, Maine’s so beautiful — love to live there — but it’s so expensive. And it is. It is. And there’s no question about it.
And until we realize that we have to get involved in commercialization and we have to develop a training program for young people and attract young people, we are always going to be at very high-cost place to live.
So, In addition, I amto just asking the Legislature to simplify and increase the Opportunity Maine tax credits and providing low-income loans and interest-free loans to our students, let’s increase the credit so that employers can get involved in paying off student debtso employers can attract and retain the young workforce we need. The return on these investments will pay enormous dividends by encouraging young people to come here and help to reverse our declining population. It can be a hiring mechanism for employers — you come to Maine, I’ll not only pay you X, but I’ll help you pay your loans off.
We’ve already put it on the books. There’s the no phantom income. And yesterday, when I was in Washington I spoke to the president and to Ivanka Trump who’s on the program to take phantom income at the national level and get rid of it for phantom income for students.
And I also said Maine would be a great place to have a pilot. I’m going to ask you one other thing, to have a very serious dialogue. And I don’t expect that to happen this year, but I really do believe you need to have this dialogue. Good-payingPay and jobs attract good workers. To attract manufacturing jobs, more than half the states — 28 — have passed Right to Work legislation. And the most recent state to become Right-to-work was the state of Kentucky became a Right to Work state in 2017.
It has already proven to be a major catalyst for growth. And then within three months after they announced it, Toyota committed, Amazon committed and another company, I think it’s called Bailey Industries or Bailor Industries, committed. In 2017, the state of Kentucky shattered its annual economic investment record in 2017, reaching $9.2 billion — nearly doubling its previous record of $5.1 billion. received commitments for $9.1 billion of capital investment, setting a new record from the previous high of being $5 billion. They nearly doubled it.
And folks, I will tell you, when I spoke to Airbus three or four years ago about getting them to come to Brunswick, which I really believed it was the right thing for them to do, they would have invested $250 million, but they elected to go to Alabama. And this is what the CEO told me: “Governor, I’m going to ask you two questions — how’s your energy cost?” I said, “We’re the cheapest in New England.” He said, “But we’re looking at Alabama.” Strike one. Second one was, “Are you Right-to-Work?” And I said, “No.” He said, “Well, Alabama it is.”
So, they went to Alabama and spent $600 million. And this is what he said to me — and I think I said this last year, in fact — he says, “You may be a good governor or you may be a bad governor, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you right now, you don’t know how much energy it takes to assemble a jet. And at 14 cents versus four cents, we will get our money back our investment back in Alabama three times faster than we could in Maine. It’s just food for thought. I think you really need to be thinking about it. I think it’s very very important. Mainers are missing out on these opportunities. I urge you to have a serious debate on Right to Work.
Now, I’ve told you all the things you should be doing, let me tell you what we have done. And for many of you, you helped. Some of you, you didn’t, but some of you really put it on the mat and really went to battle for us and we got some things done. Despite our challenges, we have made state government more efficient and more accountable.We have lowered the tax burden on hard-working Mainers. We cut the pension-fund deficit by nearly half. We paid off the hospital debt. We reformed welfare. And, you know, I was in Austin, Texas, last year and I heard somebody say, “People say they want government to rim like a business — until it does. “Well guess what, I have run it like a business.
I think I’m very very compassionate because I believe that a state lives and dies by its safety net. But you have to be able to afford your safety net and you have to be very what I call tough love when you set your safety net up. I am all for our elderly, I am all for disabilities. Intellectual disabilities under the King Administration, we closed AMHI and we thought the problem went away. But what we have done is We’ve filled our county jails. It’s time to fix it.
Now We must make continuesure ourto make progress and progress is not allowing ourselves to be hijacked by big-money, out-of-state money. liberals who continue to use our broken referendum process as a means of implementing their social-engineering agenda. The will of the people is the constitution of our representative republic. But if we want to govern through referendum, we do not need a Legislature. However, as we have seen, governing through referendum has been very destructive to many true democracies.It took a shutdown of state government to prevent the most damaging of the 2016 referenda from taking effect.
We must continue to look at our referendum system as a means of implementing a new way for Maine. I will tell you right now, the referendum system in Maine, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, you must admit that it’s not working. I will tell you right now, it is not the will of the people. Because if it was the will of the people, we would rip up our Constitution and we would get rid of the representative republic and you’d all be out of a job. Because referendums is pure democracy, and it has not worked for 15,000 years.
If you’re going to have a system, have a system. If you want to have referendums — loose referendums — and you do not want to save it so that you can get the true will of the people. I’m going to tell you right now, 50 plus 1 is not the will of the people, and I will tell you it is heartbreaking if you’re a governor to have to continually veto bills because no one wants to work on getting to a good bill. And so you’ve got a lobby like heck to get the minority to beat the majority.
Folks, that’s the wrong way. And if you were doing your job and we were working at the center we were all working together, we would not need these referendums. They’re destructive. Right now, right now as you’re going to be hearing it more and more. Minimum wage is great. The private sector unemployment is way down, everybody’s making money.
Except for one group, the nonprofits who serve nursing homes, home care, all of the medical services that require a lot of intensive labor are losing money. And we’re not giving them reimbursements. We’re not increasing their reimbursements. This is wrong. That’s another way of forgetting our elderly. We can’t walk away. We need to allow the elders to live their lives in dignity in their golden years.
So I beg…
We are not a true democracy, and I would urge you all — strongly urge you — to go into this session and fix our referendums. Make them equal to the whole state. And I will tell you — and folks on the left I will look at you right now and tell you — I can get any referendum passed in this state by spending two weekends in Portland mall. And that’s not governing properly.
I will fight just as hard this year to make sure we keep moving forward. There is nothing wrong with Maine people realizing a bit of prosperity.
I am pleased to report that the state of our financial house is in good order. In fact, it is in better shape than any time in the past 40 years. Our economy is strong. Unemployment is at 3 percent — down from 8 percent in 2011it was at 8.2 percent when I took over took office in 2011 — and lower than the national average and lower than all of New England averages.
And I’d like to take full credit for it, but guess what — I’d be a hypocrite. The fact of the matter is, there’s only one thing I did that was different than when I took office.
One thing is I changed the environment for business.
I became more business friendly. People come into our office and say, “Wow.” I get more letters and compliments from DO… from people talking about DOT, DEP, DECD, that now people are working with business instead of against business. That’s all we did. Everything else was done by business and I really tell you, that’s a message for the future.
I just finished a book — reading a book — Scalia’s Letters, and in there, there’s one of his speeches that he gave about the right and the left and he goes through a whole lot of very complicated analogies and analysis and it all comes down to two things: capitalism and socialism. And he says, “In this day and age, capitalism is greedy and socialism is power hungry. If you fix those two problems, society is great. The only people that can fix that are you people. You’re the only ones that can do that with good public policy. Public policy that will invite capital investment into our state. And once it gets here, you appreciate it and you treat them fairly.
That’s all we ask: Fair treatment.
And the number that some call the “real” unemployment rate, which includes people working part-time or those no longer even looking for work, has fallen to Maine’s lowest-level ever.
You know, people talk about unemployment rate. I’ll be very honest, 3 percent unemployment rate is not the real story. The real story is that unemployment has a lot of people that work part-time and unemployment has people that have given up on working, looking for work at all.
But this is one that I really believe that I’ve had a little bit to do with. The state of Maine has the — is number one in the country for having the most amount of people working that are in the labor force as a percentage of its population. We lead. If they can work, we get them to work. And we have to continue doing that.
The number of jobs in our private sector,is at an all-time high in 2017. Never been higher. Unfortunately, we still have more deaths than births. That is why we must continue to be fiscally responsible. We must enact policies to attract young people, not chase them away. Although our population is not as high as has been in the past.
Our good fiscal health is the result of making tough decisions and taking bold action — and I believelike using the liquor bondmoney to pay off ourthe hospitalsdebtwas a good move.
The only mistake I made there, we should have paid it in smaller increments. We shouldn’t have paid it all at once, because right now there’s $800 million of hospital projects on the drawing board. $800 million. We paid off $750 million, now we got $800 million in capital investment. I guess they’re not as poor as I thought they were, but…
We have had a positive General Fund cash position for the past three fiscal years. We project this fiscal year’s General Fund ending cash will remain positive. But we cannot pat ourselves on the back and say we have done enough. The job is not done.
Before I took office, Augusta used the Budget Stabilization Fund as their own personal slush fund. It damaged our credit rating and put the state at risk during financialin very severe emergencies. And you must — you go back to ’11, ’12 and ’13, when we first came in, and those of you that were here — we had budget shortfalls in DHHS like there was nobody’s business. We had a structural gap of $1.2 or $1.3 billion. Now, the structural gap is $165 million. So let me explain, a structural gap is simply the amount of money that a legislature wants to spend versus the amount of money they have available to spend. That’s the differential. We have lowered that. And I would I would thank both sides here. I’m not… This is, you’ve both done a very good job in helping me get this state in good financial order.
We’ve built thisRight now, the rainy-day fund tois over $200 million. — an amount greater than the average of the funds of all New England states. I will challenge you to look forward to getting it to $300 million. Because I believe that $300 million rainy day fund or budget stabilization fund will yield the state of Maine a triple-A credit rating and we would be in the top 10 states in America.
We promised to bring fiscal sanity to Augusta, and we did it. The credit rating agencies have improved our credit rating. It is less expensive now for us to borrow money to improve our roads and bridges and to fund other essential capital projects.
We should strive to become a Triple-A-rated credit risk. Increasing the fund to $300 million would help us achieve this goal. We must keep moving forward.
This area that I’m talking about for a minute, I take great pride in and I do take a lot of credit for it, and I got the scars to show it.
We have right-sized the state’s workforce, making it more efficient,andmore accountable. Former administrations balanced the budget on the backs of our state workers. I promised not to do that — and I didn’t. We eliminated the furlough days; we restored merit pay increases; and we provided cost-of living increases, which will total 6 percent this biennium.
We told the state employees that if they like their union, they can keep their union. But we also told them that if they didn’tyou don’t want to join the union, theyyoudidn’tdon’t have to join a union. and we let them keep their wages instead of paying fees to subsidize a political agenda. And many have!
And this, I believe before the end of this year, you will find the Supreme Court in the United States coming in and saying you do not have to pay extortion money to have a job.
Many many of our state employees have left the union ranks. I think that the whole nation is moving away from seniority into performance-based employment.
And I think that is the path of the 21st century, because you know what the alternative is? The alternative is going to McDonald’s and you hit a couple of keys and then that then your food comes down a little trough and you never see a human being. That’s the problem.
We’re overpowering the business community. They go to robots. Now, do robots think intelligently? No. They do what they’re told consistently. There’s no creative thinking, I agree. And it’s the downfall of society. I don’t like it.
In fact, I don’t go to a bank I don’t use ATMs — if I can’t see a person in front of me, I don’t bank. I haven’t been a bank in seven years. As long as I’m married, I don’t have to. I haven’t seen a check in 35 years.
We need legislators who will pass laws that make sense and help Maine families — not politicians looking for feel-good headlines.
We really have made greata lot of progress. implementing reforms that have brought greater prosperity and created jobs. And all joking aside — and a little serious — but joking aside, we are moving ahead. Folks, we are moving ahead. This week, there are going to be three major announcements — I’m hoping — three major announcements for companies coming to Maine. One, I will make tonight.
Just today, the North Carolina-based company LignaTerra announced it will build a new, cross-laminated timber facility at the former Great Northern Paper site in Millinocket, Maine.
We’ve been working with the company the last few months, and we are pleased that it will invest $28 million investment,and eventually create 120 new jobs, good-paying jobs. Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to Maine, LignaTerra! Your investment is welcomed and we will appreciated. you.
By Friday, I hope you’re going to hear two more major investments. We have been working very very hard at getting people here. It is a difficult one and I would ask you you can make our job a little easier if you attacked the high costs of energy, because that’s the single biggest issue.
My administration has eliminatedOur red tape, that we had back in 2011 is under control. created charter schools, cut taxes, improved our infrastructure. created new trade relationships, and reformed health insurance to lower costs — to name just a few reforms. Reforming government is hard work, but it is the right thing to do for our people.
People are not… people, they like the consistency. They don’t mind having tough regulations as long as we’re consistent and we’re reliable and we don’t change them every three months. Energy, however, is a big problem, is a really big problem. I think that if we continue doing what we’re doing, if we could get our energy under control, bring new companies in, our revenues will be there. The revenues will be there. I just think we need to work together to make sure that we look at energy.
This weekend, Oklahoma, the state of Oklahoma, who was big in wind have pulled all their wind subsidies. They’re saying, there’s no return on it. We’ve been doing it 15 years, it’s killing us. Now, don’t think for a minute that I’m against wind or solar. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not. My energy policy is very simple. It’s so simple, it’s hard to understand. Lower the cost without hurting the environment. That’s my energy policy. Do not raise rates above market. You only hurt your own people. That’s that simple.
Right now, you’ve all heard that Massachusetts was trying to go through the Northern Pass and they were going to have power from Quebec go through New Hampshire. They rejected it. The people from New Hampshire are coming this week — I mean from Massachusetts — are coming this week to see if we are serious about allowing a transmission line that’s only about 40 miles that we need to connect into the infrastructure we already have. So, there’s an opportunity, it’s not over yet.
I do want to thank many of you in this audience. First, I will tell the Republican caucus in the house, thank you. Without you, we would not be having the financial success that we currently have. It’s that plain and simple. I’m just telling you the way I see it.
I want to thank Representative Ken Fredette, Representative Ellie Espling, Representative Jeff Timberlake,andRepresentative Heather Sirocki,for being tough and consistent and hard on Appropriations. We needed you.
I want to thankRepresentative John Martin, and Representative Craig Hickman, because they’re two of the few Democrats that had the courage to come down and work with me. And while we didn’t get everything we worked on, we certainly had some good dialogues, some good debate and we moved — we both moved in the right directions, and Craig knows what I’m talking about. He moved me about a mile, and I got about six inches. I want to thankas well as Senator Rob Whittemore Senator Whittemore — SenatorLisa Kiem, SenatorEric Brakey, and Senator Troy Jackson. for working with me. These senators never hesitated when they had a question to come down sit down with me and talk. And believe me, I am the first one to know I am a tough negotiator. But they never fazed them at all — they didn’t hesitate to come down. And Troy and I have been down and out on several issues.
But we do agree on one thing, we do agree on one thing, and we’re both committed to it — is Maine people come first.
I’m about ready to close. This is an election year, and this year’s vote will be especially important. Especially important to me, because I’m leaving and I really feel that I’m leaving with a state that’s in good financial condition. Mainers get the government they vote for. So I urge the Maine peopleMainers to think carefully before going to the polls long and hard.
Who are you going to vote for? Who are you going to send Think long and hard who you will send to the Legislature and to the Blaine House.
Who are you going to send back to the Senate and to the House. YouMany will be voting to either protect Maine’s fiscal health or to let politicians run it back into the ground.
I’m not picking sides here. I’m just telling you these are these are the options.
You will be voting on whether to keep our taxes low and to maintain the right size of government or to letallow the special interests and the public-sector unions raise taxes and bloat government for their socialist agendaagain. You will be voting on whether to respect our young adults or exploit our youth and chase them out of the state. You will vote on whether to keep growing our economy or to stifle it once again.
Now I want to tell you, I’m not speaking as a governor now, I’m speaking as Paul LePage, who spent the overwhelming majority of his life in this state and I have watched it — and, matter of fact, when John Reed passed away a few years ago — I was the only elected official in the state of Maine to go to his funeral who remembered him.
So, I speak of something I’ve experienced my whole life.
You will also be voting to continue our significant progress on welfare reform. Our policies now protect our most vulnerable while encouraging those on welfare-to-workto look for work, if they you are able. That is critical. I do not want to force somebody to work who is not able. If you are able, and you have work skills, you will find that working will improve your life — your quality of life. That’s all I’m asking.
We are offering peopleI’m a firm believer in a hand up, not a hand out. , only because I live the American dream here in Maine because of some very compassionate and thoughtful people who helped me out, who got me off the streets. And I’m very indebted to those people and I believe that the ideology, that process, that whole caring of moving you forward and allowing you to learn is so so important for all Mainers and all Americans. They all have to have an opportunity. And, you know, most people — and we’ve experienced that.
Now, I’m getting letters all the time of people that said I used to hate you, years ago when you first elected and now we have one, a young lady who’s got her RN, she’s working in Bangor, she says I don’t take anything from the state. I give now, I pay back, I’m really happy my kids are proud of me — I got my kids looking at going to college.
Think about that. That’s really what is success. And I really believe in that. We will be voting to whether we continue the path we’re on, or revert back to where we were. You will be voting on whether to continue these common-sense welfare reforms or whether to return to the days of out-of-control welfare entitlements that almost bankrupted the state.
In my Inaugural address, I made a pledge to the Maine People, “to put you before politics:to put people before the politics — I think if you read the newspapers the last seven years, I’ve been rather successful at my one of my pledges:
–The parents trying to make a better life for their kids;
–The retirees trying to hold onto their homes on a fixed income;
–The college graduate trying to find a good paying job;
–The entrepreneurs with the courage to take a chance on an idea; and
–The taxpayers tired of footing the bill for a bloated establishment in Augusta.
It is time to make state government accountable. It is time to deliver value. It is time to put Mainers first.”
You know what we’ve done. When I came here we were just short of 14,000 employees. Right now, we’re about 11,800. We have 1.3 million people. New Hampshire has… we’re considered high on employees to population. New Hampshire’s right where they should be, they’re at 9,500… 9,500. It’s all a matter of managing and making sure that the people you have are treated well, they’re compensated well and you give them the proper resources that they need. And this is one area the state needs to invest in, is we have to have better resources for our employees and they can become more efficient.
So, Those wereare the promises I made, and those are the promises I have kept. , and I will promise to all the Maine people tonight that I will continue to fight for you until 11:59 a.m. on Inauguration Day.
To all the hard-working Maine taxpayers out there, it has been the biggest privilege of my life to work on your behalfit has been a marvelous and the biggest honor to serve you,be your governor.
As a person who born on… in a in a very difficult situation, on the streets, homeless kid living on the streets of Lewiston at 11 — I never once did I ever imaginedthat I would one day make it tobe living at the Blaine House. Never did I imagine that I’d even be invited to the Blaine House.
Ann and I both will tell You that you are in myour thoughts and prayersevery minute of every day. Maine people, we absolutely love you. Your prosperity is paramount forto Maine’s success , and we will fight for prosperity for the rest of the way.
I fought for you every day,.And believe me, I made some good decision, bad decisions and sometimes I drive my staff crazy. But I will tell you, there’s not one day or one second in the last seven years as your governor that every decision that I tried to make was not for the betterment of the state of Maine. and it has not been easy. But I would not have had it any other way. Thank you for letting me serve you and our great state.
I will leave you with thisa quote President Reagan attributed to Abraham Lincoln — and I firmly believe this with all my heart, and that’s how I’ve tried to govern:
“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling down the wage payer down. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
God Bless the great State of Maine, God bless all of you and God Bless America!
We still have much to do — let’s get to work.
Michael Shepherd and Chris Cousins contributed.