Thursday, December 5, 2013
Gov. Paul LePage met with three independent members of the House on Jan. 15. The meeting apparently didn't go very well, according to the lawmakers who attended.
Not well at all.
On Monday, the website Village Soup published an account of the meeting based on comments by Rep. Jefferey Evangelos, I-Friendship, who met with LePage in the governor's Cabinet room. Evangelos told Village Soup that the governor grew irritated when lawmakers told him that their constituents were unhappy with his two-year budget proposal, specifically LePage's plan to suspend municipal revenue sharing for two years.
According to Evangelos, the governor grew angry when lawmakers questioned LePage's budget and suggested that it should either include raising taxes or suspending the tax cut package that was passed in 2011. Evangelos, told Village Soup that LePage stormed out of the Cabinet room and went into his office, slamming the door behind him.
Evangelos also said that LePage pounded his fists on the cabinet room table and swore at the three lawmakers. Later, he said that they were "worse" than Democrats.
Rep. Benjamin Chipman, I-Portland, was also at the meeting. On Tuesday, he confirmed to the Portland Press Herald details of Evangelos' account, including that the governor abruptly left the Cabinet room. Chipman said LePage returned a few minutes later. He challenged lawmakers to come up with budget solutions that didn't involve raising taxes.
Chipman said the governor met with the independents for 30 minutes and essentially ruled out supporting any budget that included raising taxes.
"He got really irritated when we asked if he would be willing to restore the money that will pay for the tax cuts," Chipman said.
Chipman had specifically proposed to the governor raising lodging taxes. LePage told him that he couldn't support such a bill because it would make the state less competitive. Maine has a 7 percent lodging tax, among the lowest in the region.
Previous proposals to raise the tax have not garnered support from state lawmakers. The lodging lobby has fiercely opposed such proposals.
"It wasn't what I'd call a very constructive meeting," Chipman said. "But at least we got the chance to meet with him. There are some people who he isn't willing to meet with."
Democratic leaders have been unable to get a meeting with LePage.
Chipman said the governor became upset when questioned about his budget proposal. However, he said, "it was helpful to know where he stands."
"It was certainly an interesting meeting," Chipman said. "He definitely became irritated, but I think most of us decided that it wasn't something we wanted to go to the media with."
LePage's spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.Tweet
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.