After he is done talking taxes, energy costs and holding legislators accountable, Gov. Paul LePage typically leaves the audience at his town hall-style forums with a closing thought.

“We are all entitled to our own opinions. I urge you to remember you are not entitled to your own facts,” LePage told a recent gathering in Lewiston.

Yet LePage often fails to follow his own advice, making statements that are inaccurate, exaggerated or difficult to verify during the weekly forums that have become his primary means of communicating with the public.

The Maine Sunday Telegram examined LePage statements at recent town hall events in Lewiston and Oakland. While many of the governor’s statements ring true – such as his assessment of Maine’s energy costs relative to other states, its aging demographics and its residents’ disproportionate reliance on welfare – the paper’s fact-check found numerous examples where LePage’s talking points stretched the truth or were just plain wrong.

INCOME TAXES, PER CAPITA INCOME

As part of his push to eliminate (or further reduce) Maine’s income tax rate, LePage frequently argues that New Hampshire, Florida and other states have strong economies or higher personal income because they do not collect income taxes from residents. For instance, during his May 4 town hall in Lewiston, LePage said:

“Now I know that many will disagree with me. In the press, many people in colleges, the professors – of course they all make $200,000 – they will disagree with me. But let’s look at Florida. Let’s look at New Hampshire. Let’s look at Texas. Let’s look at North Dakota. Let’s look at South Dakota. Let’s look at all of these states whose per capita income is much greater than the state of Maine and they all have one thing in common: no income tax.”

The governor is correct that most of the states he named – New Hampshire, Texas, Florida and South Dakota – had higher per capita incomes than Maine in 2015 and do not collect state income taxes. (North Dakota does have an income tax, contrary to LePage’s statement). But is the lack of an income tax responsible for the higher incomes in those states, at least relative to Maine? That’s a bigger leap.

In 2015, Maine ranked 36th nationwide (including Washington, D.C.) with a per capita income of $42,077 and was the lowest in New England. Maine was also significantly behind neighboring New Hampshire, where the per capita income was $54,817, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Yet 27 of the 35 states with higher per capita incomes than Maine’s last year – or 77 percent – do collect state income taxes from residents. That being said, eight of the nine states without income taxes are among the top 35, the exception being Tennessee.

The landscape doesn’t change much if you compare states’ median household income, which some would argue is a better gauge than per capita income. Maine ranked 34th nationally, with a median household income of $51,710 in 2014. Six of the no-income tax states were above Maine while Nevada, Tennessee and Florida – one of LePage’s go-to states when talking taxes – ranked lower. Twenty-seven states plus the District of Columbia that collect income taxes ranked above Maine, according to the Department of Commerce data.

LePage’s quip about college professors all making $200,000 was way off-mark for Maine. Average salaries for full professors (not associate or assistant professors) ranged from $137,304 at Bowdoin College to $56,484 at the Maine College of Art, according to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Full professors at the University of Maine in Orono averaged $108,234 for the 2014-2015 academic year.

STANCE ON NALOXONE/NARCAN

“I have no problem with any family having Narcan in their home, in their car, in their pocket,” LePage said in Lewiston on May 4. “I just don’t think that the state needs to be paying for it, number one. Number two, what happens if you give somebody Narcan and you haven’t been properly trained because you are trying to save a life, and the next morning the parents file a lawsuit? Because nobody addressed that in the bill. Nobody addressed how about the liability side? And then, who pays for the training?”

There are two claims here dealing with liability and the state footing the bill for providing naloxone. Let’s take the liability part first.

LePage is wrong. The bill he appears to be referring to – which passed the Legislature with overwhelming support, despite his veto – contained an entire immunity clause intended to shield both pharmacists and good Samaritans from lawsuits. This issue was discussed at length when the bill was in committee.

The law now states that an individual is “immune from criminal and civil liability and is not subject to professional disciplinary action for possessing or providing to another person naloxone hydrochloride … whom the person believes in good faith is experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose or for any outcome resulting from such actions.”

On the issues of training and funding, the bill does require the Maine Board of Pharmacy to establish “adequate training requirements and protocols” for dispensing naloxone. However, that rule-making process was expected to carry a “minor cost increase” that could be absorbed within the board’s budget.

Nothing in the bill requires the state to pay for naloxone for family members or others.

LePage may be referring to a bill passed last year, L.D. 140, that did obligate the state to set aside money to provide naloxone to family and friends of those at risk of opiate overdoses. But the Legislature provided more than $28,000 last fiscal year and this year for that purpose. LePage allowed the bill to become law without his signature.

DEERING HIGH OVERDOSE

On two separate occasions, LePage has stated that a Deering High School student had to be revived after overdosing on opiates. He has cited the alleged incident as proof of his controversial contention that naloxone without rehab doesn’t save lives but merely extends them until the next overdose.

At his Lewiston town hall, he said:

“If I could give a shot of Narcan, pick him up and bring him into the rehab, I’m all in. But what happens (is) … a junior at Deering High School had three Narcan shots in one week. And the third one he got up and went to class. He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it he just came out of it and went to class. So, what that does is it will deteriorate our society.”

Officials from both Portland city schools and Deering High School said no such incident ever happened.

“Unequivocally no. This did not happen at Deering High School,” Portland acting Superintendent Jeanne Crocker told the Portland Press Herald days after LePage made the comment. “With respect to the governor saying that this happened at Deering High School, that is incorrect.”

Contacted again last week, Crocker said she had not learned anything new to change her conclusion. LePage administration officials did not respond to several requests for clarifications on the governor’s statements.

RIGHT-TO-WORK UNION FIGHT

LePage has fought unsuccessfully to pass “right-to-work” legislation prohibiting labor unions from collecting fees from employees who decline to join a union. If Maine were a right-to-work state, LePage argues, it would have better chances of attracting major manufacturers.

“I will just tell you the honest truth and you can do your own research. I don’t need to do it for you. Right-to-work states make more money than union states. It’s that simple. Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, go look at their per capita income, go look at their economies and then look at our economy. Look at Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont.”

Once again, research shows that LePage is (mostly) wrong.

Among the eight states he cited, three – Texas, Florida and Louisiana – had per capita income levels higher than Maine’s. Residents of the other five states earned less, per capita, in both 2014 and 2015 than Maine residents, according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Here are 2015 figures:

1. Texas $46,745

2. Florida $44,101

3. Louisiana $43,252

4. Maine $42,077

5. North Carolina $40,656

6. Georgia $40,551

7. Arkansas $39,107

8. Alabama $38,965

9. South Carolina $38,041

And taking a longer, 20-year look at the issue, only three of the eight right-to-work states mentioned by LePage – Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas – saw per capita incomes rise by a larger percentage than Maine between 1995 and 2015. However, slightly more than half, or 13 of the 25 total right-to-work states, experienced a larger jump in per capita income than Maine during that 20-year span.

Lastly, residents of the 25 right-to-work states earned less, on average, every year from 2006 to 2015 than residents of the other 25 states, plus the District of Columbia, where unions were not barred from collecting so-called “fair share” fees from non-union members.

So the research shows that LePage’s statement that “right-to-work states make more money than union states” just doesn’t hold water. A LePage administration official did not response to a request for comment.

WELFARE REFORMS

“Do you know that out of the top 10 welfare states in the United States of America, five of them are New England states? The only one that’s not is New Hampshire – no income tax, no sales tax,” LePage said in Lewiston on May 4.

It’s true that Mainers depend more on welfare than residents in the vast majority of other states, based on the percentage receiving public assistance. LePage made welfare a top focus of his administration and campaigned heavily on the issue in 2010 and 2014. And Maine’s welfare rolls have decreased under LePage – a fact championed by his supporters and seized upon by his critics as evidence of policies that harm low-income Mainers.

Contrary to LePage’s statement, however, the rest of New England is not in the same situation.

It’s unclear how LePage defines “welfare states” or what data he was using to make that statement. Examining several of the most common types of welfare – food stamps, General Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF – shows that Maine has much higher welfare usage rates than its New England neighbors.

Maine ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2011 and 2012 – the last years for which complete federal data were available – behind Alaska in the percentage of households receiving TANF or General Assistance. Roughly 5 percent of Maine households participated in those federal welfare programs during that time. Only Vermont also ranked in the top 10 in either year.

Similarly, Maine had the nation’s third-highest food stamp usage (at 18 percent of households) in 2013 and was tied with Michigan in fourth place in 2012. No other New England states broke the top 10 in either year, although both Rhode and Vermont placed in the top 20 in 2013.

A LePage administration official did not response to an email requesting additional information on the governor’s statement.

MAINE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

LePage recently called the Maine Education Association – the union and advocacy arm for the state’s teachers – “the worst organization in the state of Maine.” And during two recent town halls, LePage accused the MEA of ignoring his repeated offers to set aside $5 million in state money to help teachers earn advanced degrees or pursue professional development as long as the union matches the money with funds from members’ dues.

“We’ll share in it. We’ll be partners. We’ll get them to get master’s degrees, doctor’s degrees,” LePage said. “All they have to do is put the time in, we’ll pay for it. Good deal. I sent them a letter the first four years. Every year I sent them the same letter. I have yet to get an answer.”

Asked for copies of the letters, LePage’s office provided one from May 2012 that clearly makes such a pitch, although it doesn’t specify a dollar figure.

“I reiterate my challenge to the MEA to partner with my administration in improving professional development opportunities for teachers,” LePage wrote to then-MEA President Chris Galgay. “Specifically, I pledge to budget state funds to match – dollar for dollar – any increase in professional development funds offered to teachers by the MEA. By working together to ensure teachers are afforded the best available tools, the latest methodologies and the best practical training – we can put students first.”

Lois Kilby-Chesley, who took over as MEA president from Galgay in 2012, was unaware of the May 2012 letter. But Kilby-Chesley said she has never seen such an offer during her tenure as MEA president.

“I don’t have any emails at all from the governor and definitely none suggesting that we should share the costs of professional development,” said Kilby-Chesley, who added that her last conversation with LePage was more than three years ago. “He has never offered $5 million to the MEA for anything … and he has not spoken to me since April 19, 2013.”

In a statement, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor and administration staff “have had numerous conversations with MEA staffers regarding education reform to help improve training and professional development for our teachers” over the years.

“As the Governor shares at his town halls, he believes not enough money is going into the classroom,” Bennett said. “He has stated multiple times that he supports a teachers contract, as well. Unfortunately, MEA does not want to improve our education system. Dues collected is shipped to Washington, D.C. for political campaigns while Maine teachers are picking up the tab on school supplies they are providing for students. It is wrong.”

MINIMUM WAGE

During two recent town halls, LePage stated that Maine’s minimum wage was $7.65 an hour.

It’s not. It is $7.50.

Although a minor discrepancy dollar-wise, some would argue it is important for the state’s chief executive to know the accurate amount given the heated debate in Maine ahead of voters’ decision this November about whether to raise the wage in increments to $12 in 2020. If voters reject the initiative, it will remain $7.50 an hour.

During his Oakland town hall, LePage actually used both figures.

“The minimum wage right now is $7.50 or $7.65. Whatever the rate is, I’m not even sure because quite frankly I don’t know of anybody that, personally, is working the minimum wage. Even at Marden’s,” LePage added, mentioning his former company, “the starting wage is way above minimum wage.”