Friday March 22, 2013 | 10:41 AM

Below is the 3.21.13 press conference held by Gov. Paul LePage and his transportation commissioner David Bernhardt. 

The governor begins speaking at 4:06 and later at 18:53. 

In addition to heaping heavy praise on Bernhardt (LePage has frequently said the commissioner knows "how to stretch a dollar."), the governor answered his Democratic critics who say he's holding $105 million in voter-approved bonds "hostage" until the Legislature approves his proposal to repay Maine hospitals $484 million in backlogged Medicaid reimbursement.

At 19:31, LePage acknowledges that he's leveraging the bonds to force legislators to repay the hospitals, saying that "the people upstairs" (the Legislature is located a floor above the governor's office), wouldn't do so unless he forced the issue.

"People say, 'why are doing- you're holding it hostage.' Yeah, I'll admit it. It's the only way I can get anything done upstairs," LePage said. "You gotta threaten them. They won't get it done unless I force it." 

LePage also explains at 20:21 why he didn't follow through on his vow to veto all legislation until the Legislature passes the hospital payback plan. LePage let five bills become law without his signature on Tuesday, the deadline for him to veto the legislation or let them become law without his signature. He said it was his fault, that nobody on his staff told him the bills were sitting on his desk until Tuesday.

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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