WASHINGTON — Maine Gov. Paul LePage was in Washington, D.C., this past weekend to meet with other Republican governors but left town for vacation before a bipartisan group gathered at the White House to talk with the president about looming budget cuts.
LePage attended several meetings and events held by the Republican Governors Association. He also met Saturday with Alberta Premier Alison Redford, apparently to discuss the possibility of crude oil being piped from tar sands oil fields in Alberta to Portland.
The governor apparently stayed away from events organized as part of the nonpartisan National Governors Association’s annual winter meeting.
His spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, initially said that LePage attended some National Governors Association meetings on Saturday. She corrected herself later Monday, saying the governor had attended only the Republican-sponsored events.
The governor left Washington on Saturday to join his family in Florida for vacation.
“We are all entitled to a little bit of vacation time,” Bennett said.
LePage opted not to attend a black tie dinner at the White House on Sunday night or a meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden on Monday.
When asked why LePage opted to skip the White House meetings, Bennett said, “There is too much rhetoric flying around right now,” with $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts looming.
There are few signs that Republicans and Democrats will reach an agreement before the cuts begin Friday.
Bennett said LePage agrees with other governors that the federal government should give states more flexibility in applying the cuts.
“Across-the-board cuts are not the way to go,” she said. “That is a poor way to balance any budget. What we need is flexibility if states are going to bear the burden of the cuts, and right now states do not have that flexibility.”
On Sunday night, the White House released reports on how the budget cuts would affect each state. The potential impacts in Maine include:
• The loss of more than $5 million in education funding, which could jeopardize dozens of teacher and staff positions.
• The loss of $41.7 million in federal payroll for about 7,000 civilian defense employees, who face furloughs.
• Less money for vaccinations, student financial aid and nutritional programs for senior citizens.
LePage stopped paying membership dues to the National Governors Association last fall, saying he wasn’t getting enough return for the $60,000. As a governor, he is still technically a member of the organization.
At the time, LePage said he would attend the winter meeting but he had little use for the meetings otherwise.
“I get no value out of those meetings,” LePage told the Capitol News Service’s Mal Leary in September.
“They are too politically correct and everybody is lovey-dovey and no decisions are ever made. There are some tough decisions that need to be made in this country and we need to start making them.”
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