Despite the recent sweltering heat, Gov. Paul LePage is anticipating winter — and the likelihood that the state will get far less in federal heating assistance this year than last.

At his town hall meeting last week in Dover-Foxcroft, LePage told the crowd that his daily briefing book included a letter from the federal government saying that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will face significant cuts. LePage said Maine spent $58 million in heating assistance last year, but will probably get less than $30 million for the coming heating season.

“This year, heating oil is expected to be higher (in cost) than last year,” he said. “This year, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure people aren’t found frozen in their homes.”

The topic came up as LePage was making a larger point about the need to focus welfare spending on only the neediest Mainers. He has pledged to once again attempt to limit enrollment in Medicaid to reduce the number of people getting the health insurance coverage. Although Medicaid is a federal program, it requires state matching money.

“To say that we are cutting, we are not cutting; we are trying to distribute the best we can,” he said. “I am particularly concerned about the elderly. The elderly are the ones that don’t ask for help and they are the ones that need it the most.”

USING NUNS AS PUNCHLINE

While in Washington last week, LePage repeated a variation of an oft-told joke on the campaign trail about nuns and maternity benefits.

LePage has said Maine’s health insurance regulations are so strict that they require nuns to purchase maternity coverage. By allowing Mainers to buy coverage from other states, that type of mandate can be avoided, he said during remarks to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“We should have exempted them, and if they get in trouble they can call the pope,” he said, according to Kaiser Health News.

CANDIDATE STUCK WITH STAMPS

Attention residents of Eliot: A former Republican House candidate has $352 worth of 44-cent stamps to sell and they must be gone by early August, according to the ethics commission.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, updated the panel in a memo on an issue involving Ellen Lemire of Eliot, who ran for House District 148.

Lemire, who lost the election, apparently sent her daughter-in-law to the post office last fall to buy 30 rolls of stamps valued at $1,320. State Clean Election funds were used for the purchase.

Apparently, the campaign was told by a postal official that the post office would buy back the stamps if they weren’t all used. The campaign didn’t use any of the stamps — preferring to use a mail house instead — and when it came time for a refund, the post office refused to buy them back, Wayne wrote.

To date, Lemire has been able to find buyers for all but $352 worth of the stamps. In his memo, Wayne warns that if she doesn’t sell the stamps and return the money by early August, he will view it “as a potential enforcement matter.”

“The staff has provided the candidate with an extended period of time because we understand the challenges of selling such a large number of rolls of stamps,” he wrote. “Organizations preparing large mailings presumably have more convenient ways of buying a large amount of postage than purchasing rolls of stamps.”

The issue appears on the commission’s Thursday agenda.

WEBSTER WILL PRESENT RESEARCH

As promised, Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster is holding a news conference today to release “preliminary research into same-day voter registration improprieties” that were one of the reasons cited by Republicans who passed a bill to eliminate same-day voter registration. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. in the State House Welcome Center.

Meanwhile, Democrats and Democratic-friendly groups are continuing to gather signatures to try to force a people’s veto vote in hopes of overturning the legislation. If they want to make the November ballot, they have until Aug. 8 to get 57,277 valid signatures.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan M. Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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