AUGUSTA — Legislators from both parties gave Gov. Paul Le-Page high marks for his State of the State address Tuesday night, saying he set a good tone for the rest of this year’s legislative session.
“That was Governor LePage’s best speech ever,” said Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta. “He was passionate, clear in his vision and direct about his priorities.”
Democrats praised LePage for his tone one day after they held a press conference to express dismay about negative comments he has made recently.
Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, said she was surprised — and glad — that the governor took a more conciliatory approach. “Hopefully, the tenor of his speech will make it easier for us to work together,” she said.
The address brought legislators to their feet for standing ovations several times.
The former general manager of Marden’s Surplus & Salvage dressed like a businessman for the speech, wearing a dark suit, a blue shirt and a striped tie.
He pointed his finger for emphasis while talking about welfare spending, which he described as a “monstrous beast.”
Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said the governor’s proposal to remove 65,000 people from MaineCare to balance the health and human services budget is inconsistent with comments he made about wanting to protect the state’s safety net.
“The governor needs to look at welfare in the context of who we are providing services to,” he said.
Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess, R-Cumberland, House chairwoman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, called LePage’s speech “excellent.”
“I was more than pleased and appreciated his tone and his call for bipartisanship,” she said. “We can do business and protect the environment. They are not mutually exclusive.”
Dana Connors, executive director of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said LePage emphasized the need to create jobs.
“The focus on quality jobs is what people want to hear,” he said. “That was what people needed to hear.”
LePage’s renewed emphasis on battling domestic violence, and his reference to the abuse he suffered as a boy, caught the attention of lawmakers including Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland.
As a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, she said, she’s ready to work with LePage to reduce the incidence of domestic violence. But, she said, cutting social service programs as LePage has proposed destabilizes families.
“We need to continue to build families up,” she said.
LePage, who had to walk past Occupy Maine protesters as he entered the House chamber to deliver the speech, got a couple of high-fives from his staff as he left the chamber.
“You the man!” said Chief of Staff John McGough as political advisor Brent Littlefield joined in the celebration.
The positive energy was echoed by Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville.
“I don’t know what anyone can find fault with,” he said. “It was absolutely great.”
MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]