AUGUSTA — Top Republican lawmakers Thursday issued their first response to Gov. Paul LePage’s comments that he’ll work against all lawmakers who vote against his aggressive tax initiative, revealing a division that has been widely assumed but remained largely out of public view.

The statements from Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, followed remarks the governor made Wednesday at a luncheon hosted by a conservative advocacy group. On Thursday, in an interview with WMTW-TV, LePage reportedly questioned whether Republicans who vote against his budget are truly Republicans.

“While the governor has a way of making comments that grab headlines, Senate Republicans are committed to reducing the overall tax burden on Maine citizens,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “That tax burden includes property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes.”

He added, “In the coming weeks, we look forward to a discussion that will lead us to passing a budget that Mainers can afford.”

Thibodeau’s statement refers to LePage’s plan to raise the state’s sales tax from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent and eventually eliminate municipal revenue sharing to help pay for a reduction in the income tax. The sales tax concept is similar to a proposal that the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed in 2009, but was eventually overturned by a Republican-led ballot initiative. The governor’s 2013 proposal to eliminate revenue sharing was rejected by Democrats and Republicans over fears that doing so would increase property taxes.

Thibodeau and other Republican lawmakers have since used the failed 2009 tax reform in their respective legislative campaigns against Democrats. Further, Thibodeau was one of several Republicans who rallied around LePage’s call to reject a two-year budget plan enacted by the Legislature in 2013 because that proposal contained a sales tax increase.

Despite that history, the governor has called on Republicans to endorse his plan. To date, few have, and some have privately complained that the proposal neither reduces spending nor the income tax rate enough to support.

Mason, in a statement, said, “Senate Republicans’ priorities this session are the same as those we campaigned on in 2014: ensuring Maine’s hardworking families are paying less in taxes and energy costs, and no longer seeing their hard-earned money being wasted by a bloated government.”

He added, “We are supportive of lowering, and eventually eliminating, the income tax, but the best way to achieve that goal is to reduce the size of government and encourage the growth of business.”

The governor’s proposal is currently under review by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee. The panel will recommend changes before sending the entire package for votes in the House and Senate.

Mason said, “Senate Republicans will be working to make sure those changes include a reduction in the cost and size of government, and an overall benefit to Maine’s hardworking families.”

LePage acknowledged at a Maine Heritage Policy Center luncheon in Bangor on Wednesday that his proposal faces political headwinds. However, he has steadily increased the pressure on lawmakers over the past two days.

During a news conference on Tuesday, he said, “I have four years and my goal is to do two things. One is to eliminate the income tax and two is to lower the cost of energy. People upstairs (legislators) can be with me or they can be against me, but that’s what I’m doing for four years.”

On Wednesday he said he fully expected that the Legislature will reject his plan.

“But next year is an election year and I am going to spend the rest of my time as governor fighting the battle of eliminating the income tax and reducing energy costs, I promise you.”

He added, “If it doesn’t pass this year and you invite me back next year, I’ll come back with a 20-(point) font … with the name of every legislator and senator who voted against the elimination of the income tax,” he said. “I will spend the rest of my days as governor criticizing and going after those people who don’t care about our elderly, our disabled, people with mental illness, babies being born addicted to drugs.”

All members of Republican leadership declined to respond to the governor’s remarks Wednesday, but Thibodeau and Mason issued their joint statement Thursday evening after word of the WMTW interview circulated throughout the State House.

His comments to WMTW were tweeted by reporter Paul Merrill, who wrote, “(LePage) questions whether a Republican who opposes his tax plan is really a Republican.”