ROCKPORT – Gov. Paul LePage talked about windmills, methadone clinics, taxes, child support and welfare programs Friday night before a feisty crowd of supporters and opponents.
At his fifth Capitol for a Day town hall meeting since his inauguration in January, the Republican governor fielded questions at Camden Hills Regional High School. He was greeted by many people wearing “61%” stickers – a reference to the percentage of voters who did not support him last fall – and a strong contingent of supporters with LePage T-shirts and buttons.
The crowd, estimated at 250 people, yelled back at LePage a few times, prompting his press secretary to remind the audience to be respectful.
One exchange came early in the event, when a woman asked him why he doesn’t think it is discriminatory to reduce welfare benefits for legal noncitizens. LePage said that, with limited resources, he wants to take care of Maine people first.
When the woman yelled back that the immigrants are here legally, LePage responded by saying: “My answer stands. I will feed Maine people before I feed foreigners.”
After questions about why the state doesn’t provide bus service or an expanded road system, state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin stepped in.
“We have to make sure we realize our state is broke,” he said. “We have no new money.”
A man yelled: “Raise taxes!”
That prompted LePage to list statistics about higher incomes in nearby states. “We have the oldest state in the country,” he said. “The highest number of people on fixed incomes. Sir, that’s not the answer!”
LePage’s response prompted some to rise for a standing ovation.
The governor was joined on the high school stage by several Cabinet members, including Pattie Aho, who was chosen by the governor Friday to be acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.
While LePage spent much of the day traveling to Knox County businesses, he also vetoed three more bills. All were resolves that called for the Department of Health and Human Services to do studies or create programs.
At the town hall meeting, LePage said he’s working with DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew to make methadone clinics more effective. And he spoke of the need for the Legislature to pass tougher laws against domestic violence and deadbeat dads.
“In the state of Maine, in the last two weeks, we had two children in the morgue, two mothers in the morgue, and two fathers who blew their brains out,” he said. “The problem in the state of Maine is, the laws are too lenient. I tried to make changes and the Legislature didn’t want to make them.”
When asked what he will do to reduce the state’s dependence on foreign oil, LePage said he’s concerned about a directive he received recently from the federal government regarding heating with wood.
He said his daily briefing book included a message from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, warning that it may soon crack down on states that rely heavily on wood to heat homes.
“That is one law, if the EPA put in, I will disobey,” he said.
LePage continued to criticize the state’s wind power industry, saying windmills are hurting the state’s quality of life.
“They are doing an awful lot of damage to our quality of life, our mountains,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to lower the cost of energy. I think in 10 years we’re going to be like Sweden and Denmark and we’re going to be swearing at ourselves.”
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