AUGUSTA — Last week, gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud took a news release from the governor’s office and spun it to imply that Gov. Paul LePage thinks Social Security and Medicare are welfare.

Though the governor’s office clearly stated that that interpretation was wrong, the Portland Press Herald caught the pass and ran it all the way to the touchdown line, with multiple stories, sensationalist headlines and the obligatory 800 words of sarcasm from Bill Nemitz. Notice that no other paper in the state ran with the Michaud campaign’s spin to the extent that the Press Herald did.

The governor, meanwhile, was on a plane back from China. The statements in question were from a news release prepared by his staff.

When the governor got back to town, he made clear he believes that Social Security and Medicare are benefits that we all pay into and receive regardless of need; they are not welfare.

The news release merely stated that the federal government includes welfare within what’s called “transfer payments,” and that Social Security and Medicare, in addition to welfare, are also considered “transfer payments.”

While we’re on the subject of Social Security and Medicare, however, it seems fair to explore Rep. Michaud’s record on the issues. As it turns out, his damaging actions speak louder than the governor’s misinterpreted words.

In 1999, while in the Maine Senate, Michael Michaud voted to increase taxes on seniors’ Social Security benefits in order to fund tax breaks for state employees. The outcry against the bill was immediate, and then-Gov. Angus King vetoed the measure, which tells us that Gov. LePage isn’t the only governor willing to veto bad legislation.

When asked during a congressional debate to explain his vote, Michaud repeatedly dodged the question like a seasoned politician, refusing to explain his stand or take any responsibility.

In 2003, while in Congress, Michaud tried to stop the Medicare Part “D” prescription drug benefit in its infancy, voting against Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Research shows that the prescription drug benefit has reduced the number of seniors who have to forgo important medication because of cost concerns.

That takes us to Michaud’s 2009 vote for Obamacare, which, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, robbed seniors of $716 billion worth of Medicare funding in order to pay for Medicaid expansion for able-bodied young adults.

Michaud’s loyalty to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi cost Maine seniors more than $50 million – or almost $1,000 per beneficiary – in cuts to Medicare Advantage also designed to pay for Obamacare.

Finally, Michaud in 2012 refused to vote to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the rationed-care panel that even federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted would lead to reduced access to important care, such as dialysis, for seniors.

But what makes Michaud’s votes to rob seniors of benefits and ration their care even worse was the fact that he has lied about his vote for Obamacare. When he cast his vote, he did so promising to work across the aisle with his Republican colleagues to make the law better should any problems arise.

Needless to say, Obamacare has provided a steady stream of bad news for Maine seniors and workers. However, Michaud broke his promise and repeatedly refused to support fixes to the law, even when dozens of his fellow Democrats joined Republicans to make it better.

Michaud voted in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and hardline liberal Democrats against removing the 1099 paperwork mandate, which even President Obama acknowledged needed a fix.

He voted against a measure to allow Mainers to keep their plans if they like them – which would have helped the president keep his own broken promise.

And Michaud voted against delaying both the individual and employer mandates, which would have given Mainers some breathing room as Obamacare began to devastate their businesses and insurance plans.

Gov. LePage, on the other hand, has a record of supporting our seniors. He increased the tax deduction for pension income, saving Maine pensioners $20 million per year; repealed the Democrats’ tax on meals at retirement homes; worked to reduce the effect of federal home heating assistance cuts on Maine seniors; and implemented Homeward Bound, a program that helps elderly Mainers move from institutional to community settings.

Instead of scouring Gov. LePage’s news releases for political opportunities to exploit, Michael Michaud should explain his votes to increase taxes on Maine seniors and reduce their benefits.

— Special to the Press Herald