Author Stephen King turned Gov. Paul LePage’s effort to kill Maine’s income tax into a horror show for the governor Thursday.
In a weekly radio address LePage’s office released on Wednesday, the governor erroneously said that King, who owns property in Florida, had moved to the Sunshine State, presumably to avoid paying income taxes to the state of Maine.
The remark prompted King, a legal resident of Maine and frequent LePage critic, to issue his own statement through a radio station he owns in Bangor, saying the governor “is full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”
LePage’s office scrambled to withdraw and correct the radio address Thursday, after learning that the governor’s statement about King was false, but the remarks were already widely circulating on blogs and social media.
It’s unclear how many stations broadcast the address, in which LePage also says that conservation philanthropist Roxanne Quimby lives outside Maine. King actually lives in Center Lovell and Bangor but spends his winters in Florida, while Quimby also owns property in Maine.
The governor’s remarks were in the context of his defense of a controversial tax overhaul proposal. The plan reduces the state income tax by raising the sales tax and applying it to new items and services, a proposal that LePage argues will lure wealthy retirees and seasonal inhabitants to make Maine their primary domicile. The tax migration theory has been challenged by Democrats, but LePage attempted to hit back in his weekly radio address, arguing that the state’s income tax was adopted by former Democratic Gov. Ken Curtis, who now lives in Florida.
“Meanwhile, remember who introduced the income tax here in Maine,” LePage said. “Well, today former Governor Ken Curtis lives in Florida where there is zero income tax. Stephen King and Roxanne Quimby have moved away, as well.”
The governor is correct about Curtis. However, his suggestion that King doesn’t live in Maine or pay income taxes here is incorrect. On Thursday, King, the author of 55 novels, many with a horror theme, sent a response to The Pulse AM 620 radio station in Bangor, which he owns, to set the record straight.
“Governor LePage is full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green,” King said. “Tabby (King’s wife, Tabitha) and I pay every cent of our Maine state income taxes, and are glad to do it. We feel, as Governor LePage apparently does not, that much is owed from those to whom much has been given. We see our taxes as a way of paying back the state that has given us so much. State taxes pay for state services. There’s just no way around it. Governor LePage needs to remember there ain’t no free lunch.”
The corrected version of LePage’s weekly address, which is posted on the governor’s official website, deleted the reference to King and Quimby.
King’s comments about LePage extend his history of quips about the Republican governor. In March of 2011, King described LePage as a “stone brain.” Earlier that same year, King, a Democrat, showed up at a rally in Sarasota to protest Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s budget cuts. He compared Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Scott and LePage to “Larry, Curly and Moe,” respectively.
King has also decried Republican-initiated tax cuts, which he has repeatedly argued benefit the wealthy. During the Sarasota rally, he said, “Now, you might say, ‘What are you doing up there? Aren’t you rich?’ The answer is, ‘Thank God, yes.’ … And you know what? As a rich person, I pay 28 percent taxes. What I want to ask you is, why don’t I pay 50 percent? Why is everybody in my bracket not paying 50 percent? The Republicans will say, from John Boehner to Mitch McConnell to Rick Scott, that we can’t do that because, if we tax guys like me, there won’t be any jobs. It’s bull! It’s total bull!”
King endorsed former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud during the 2014 gubernatorial race and has hosted fundraisers for other Democratic candidates. He was among the top individual Maine political donors last year, giving $60,700 to Democratic candidates and committees, according to records at the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices and the Federal Election Commission.
The King-LePage dustup recalls old criticism from Democrats about the governor’s residency. The scrutiny began during LePage’s first run for governor in 2010, when media reports disclosed that his wife, Ann LePage, had received tax breaks on the family’s homes in Florida and Waterville. The governor’s campaign later blamed the duplicative breaks on a paperwork error, and Ann LePage repaid $227.93 in back taxes before the election.
LePage sold the Waterville home after winning the election in 2010. He claimed the Blaine House, the governor’s mansion in Augusta, as his primary residence while continuing to own the house in Florida.
Last year LePage and his wife purchased a home in Boothbay, where they said they planned to move after he leaves the Blaine House.
Here’s the original address that was sent to the media and radio stations on Wednesday: