AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage’s inaugural speech Wednesday offered few political surprises and covered areas he often discussed on the campaign trail — including education, regulatory reform and welfare reform.
For political allies and longtime LePage supporters, hearing the themes again was music to the ears.
For his political opponents, well, they did like the music.
“I loved the Maine Steiners, I was glad to see that. And I loved the military marches that were played in the middle,” said House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono.
The Maine Steiners, an all-male a capella group from the University of Maine, performed at the inauguration.
“The speech itself was full of lofty goals and not a lot of specifics, but certainly I am ready to learn more,” Cain said.
“I want to know who’s going to be leading the departments, I want to know what the policy details are going to be and I want to know them as soon as possible.”
Democrats look forward to finding common ground on LePage goals such as improving Maine’s business climate, she said, but want details.
“I think you saw the governor lay out in basic terms some ideas around education, around business and improving the business climate, but just because you use the word bloated doesn’t mean something is bloated.
“We need to find out what he’s talking about when he says that and where we can work together,” Cain said.
Cain also said she was concerned by some of the rhetoric regarding benefit programs and his proposal to limit welfare enrollment to five years.
“Let’s talk about how we can help the people so they don’t need the program, but the program itself isn’t necessarily the problem and I think that sort of the assumption was in the tone of the speech today,” she said.
House Speaker Bob Nutting, R-Oakland, said he thought LePage’s inaugural address was the best speech he’d ever heard him give.
“I’ve followed Paul LePage for years and years, I’ve known him for a long time — he just keeps getting better and better,” he said. “I was impressed and frankly surprised that he led off with education. He’s had some detractors that mentioned he’s not a big education person and I thought he dispelled all that.”
Republican lawmakers, who control the Legislature for the first time in decades, are eager to start working with LePage’s administration and build on the plans he laid out in his first address, Nutting said.
“We can’t do it all here in this building. He can’t do it, I can’t do it, but working together and with the encouragement of people outside . . . they will drive us to a successful completion.”
Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney, R-Sanford, called LePage’s speech “upbeat.”
“I thought he laid out a vision and a positive direction where we can go,” he said.
Ray and Jo Craemer of Eustis, a pair of LePage supporters who attended the inaugural festivities, called the new governor a plainspoken man with a plan.
“I’m very pleased with the fact that he has a clear vision and he says things plainly and he means what he says,” said Jo Craemer. “I’m optimistic for the first time in a long time”
Ray Craemer praised LePage’s call for a stronger vocational school system and was intrigued by his proposal to offer Maine students a five-year high school education that could translate either to a job or a year of college credit.
“I like the idea that he understands that you having a job is what pays the bills and the taxes,” he said. “I like going through the private sector, I think we need to do more of that.”
Jo Craemer said it was nice to be able to attend the inaugural and praised both the length and the content of the ceremony.
“Well, we’re both retired Navy, so the pomp and circumstance is nice,” she said with a laugh.
MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: