January 25, 2012

State of the State: LePage talks tough on jobs, spending and abuse

The governor avoids attacks and adds a personal note about domestic violence.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Gov. Paul LePage gestures near the end of his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Maine House and Senate tonight at the State House in Augusta.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

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Gov. Paul LePage greets Rep. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, as he walks down the aisle in the State House to give his first State of the State address on Tuesday evening in Augusta.

Photo by Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

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SPEECH HIGHLIGHTS
LePage told the Legislature that his childhood memories “are ravaged with domestic violence,” and he promised to do whatever he could to end domestic abuse. He received a standing ovation from Democrats and Republican.

LePage said state government needs to become even more customer service oriented if it wants to build a reputation that “Maine is open for business.” “We are changing the culture of state agencies from No to Can Do,” the governor added.

LePage said the state’s annual median household income – $45,708 – is 18 percent below the national average. “It is sad, really really sad,” LePage said. The governor called on legislators to be “outraged” and to work to create a better climate for businesses to create higher paying jobs.

Noting that Maine had the ninth highest tax burden in the country, the governor pointed out that “even Taxachusetts was lower than Maine.” He said if the state is to be truly open for business its leaders must reduce the cost of doing business here.

LePage called on the Legislature to create a new Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. He said the agency would become the steward of Maine’s natural resource based economy for generations to come.

The governor’s proposed Certified Business Friendly Community Program would recognize those towns that help foster business growth by designating them as towns that are open for business. “I believe that Maine is the most beautiful state in the nation. It is important that we do not lose sight of our roots as we work to improve our economy. The choice between our environment and our business climate is not either or. It should always be both,” LePage said.

– Dennis Hoey, Staff Writer
 

He said he opposes efforts to require more use of expensive, green energy – a reference to a petition drive to boost the use of renewable energy in the state.

“I do not support Augusta being in the business of increasing costs on hardworking Maine families to pad the pockets of interest groups,” he said, “I support letting the free market decide.”

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said he welcomed LePage’s more positive tone.

“He clearly got the message from Mainers and from Democrats. We’re tired of blaming,” Alfond said.

Alfond praised LePage for taking on domestic violence, but said the governor still has not laid out a plan for reviving the economy. And, he said, despite talking about the need to provide more opportunities for kids, the administration is trying to cut a variety of services like Head Start.

Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, said LePage reminded lawmakers that there will be much work to do after the budget shortfall is solved.

“He refocused on what his direction will be when we get through with the budget,” Cushing said.

MaineToday Media State House Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
jrichardson@mainetoday.com

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