April 28, 2012

LePage: State workers ‘corrupted by bureaucracy’

The governor’s spokeswoman says he used ‘powerful words’ to call out government employees who delay the administration’s progress.

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Paul LePage
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Gov. LePage wrote a letter to state employees a day after he made remarks about "corrupt" middle management in state government during a town hall meeting in Newport.

The Associated Press

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Letter from the Governor to Maine State Employees

WHAT THE GOVERNOR SAID

Gov. Paul LePage’s comment Thursday about “corrupt” middle management in state government followed a question from a woman who said her daughter had a hard time getting her cosmetology license and faced several fees in the process.

“My question is, what can we do to streamline this process? What can we do to make it better? Why all these fees?”

LePage spoke for about two minutes in response to the question.

“The reason for all these fees is simply we had a Legislature for many years that got in the habit of spending more than they would take in on taxes. So they start putting fees up there. I will tell you this, no fees have gone up since I’ve been there and we’re doing everything we can to lower taxes. We lowered taxes by $450 million last year. I will tell you this, we are the 9th highest taxed state in the union.

"Because we’re avoiding to be Number One, we have a new trick called fees. I resent them and I try to reduce them as much as I can.

"The problem is government is so big in Maine that in order for it to function it needs these fees. Are we efficient? No. I clearly agree with you. You’re speaking to the choir when you are speaking to these people up here.

'Unfortunately in state government there’s three kinds of jobs. There’s an appointed job, which I have control over, these people up here from the standpoint they work for me; we have protected jobs or civil servant jobs, which is one step better than being in the union but we still have very limited control over; and then you have the state union.

"Believe me, there is a lot of good and hard working people that work for the state. They are not the problem. The problem is the middle management of the state is about as corrupt as you can be. Believe me we’re trying every day to get them to go to work, but it’s hard.”

Representatives for Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho said their bosses had no comment.

The spokesman for Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass said Winglass couldn't be reached, while the spokesman for Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen would only refer questions to Bennett. The spokesman for Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt said he would seek comment, but did not call back or return calls.

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said the tone of the work environment is set by the people in charge: the governor and his commissioners.

"To use such strong, negative and hurtful language to describe the work force of the state of Maine is not a way to inspire action or change or build confidence from your employees," she said.

Sen. David Hastings, R-Fryeburg, said it was clear to him that LePage was expressing frustration about changing direction in a bureaucracy.

"I think it was a pretty poor choice of words, and probably he would agree," Hastings said.

Newport Town Manager Jim Ricker, who attended Thursday's meeting, said he did not think that LePage was talking about criminal corruption.

"I think there's a frustration everywhere with bureaucracy," he said. "I don't care if it's federal, state or local. A lot of citizens see that we have regulated ourselves into a corner."

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

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