October 24, 2013

LePage’s ‘47% don’t work’ claim draws fire

State labor statistics show his assertion is incorrect, as 60 percent of Mainers who are eligible to work are employed, and many others are retired, caregivers or going to school.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage has said in the past that his inaccurate or impolitic remarks are not helpful to his political career.

AP File Photo

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EMPLOYMENT AND PUBLIC ASSISTANCE

TANF is only provided to families with children, or to children directly. In August there were 20,608 individuals who received cash benefits, of which 13,338 were children, according to data from the Maine DHHS. More than 5,400 of the 7,270 adults (75 percent) participated in ASPIRE, a job placement program.

According to 2011 data, the most recent, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 30 percent of individuals receiving food stamp benefits had earned income from employment. However, only 21.5 percent of recipients were non-disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without children. Twenty percent were single parents, while the rest were disabled, elderly and children.

There doesn’t appear to be state-specific data tracking Medicaid recipients who are employed. However, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, 34 percent of recipients are children, 28 percent are adults, 20 percent are disabled and 18 percent are considered elderly. It’s known that a significant number of adults receiving health care coverage work, including 14,500 parents between 100 and 133 percent of federal poverty level losing their coverage due to budget cuts. That group of beneficiaries will qualify for transitional coverage because they receive some earned income.

Michaud’s campaign immediately parlayed the comment into a fundraising opportunity, while the Democratic Governors Association drew a parallel to Romney’s 47 percent reference from 2012.

Independent candidate Eliot Cutler said the comment shows that LePage isn’t “worthy of leading” Mainers.

Cutler said it was “patently false and insulting to the people of a state known for their work ethic and ingenuity.”

The 54-second snippet from LePage’s 90-minute speech to the Informed Women’s Network group is the sixth released by Tipping. Each clip has been less than a minute, including two that are shorter than 30 seconds.

The governor’s allies have criticized Tipping for not publishing the entire speech. Tipping said Tuesday that each clip is in context, and that he plans to release the entire recording.

Asked why he didn’t publish the entire speech from the start, Tipping said, “There are so many claims in this that it takes a while to fact-check them. I wanted to give each of these a full (blog) post. Everything that I’ve put out deserves at least a few paragraphs (of explanation).”

Tipping works for the Maine People’s Alliance, an activist group that has long helped Democratic candidates get elected through get-out-the-vote drives. Since LePage was elected, the group has become increasingly aggressive.

LePAGE STANDS BY MOST COMMENTS

Some of the recorded clips have been clarified by the governor, including one in which he said he was hiding a $47 million surplus from the Legislature.

In another, LePage said his civil emergency proclamation in response to this month’s federal government shutdown was designed to nullify the state employees’ labor contract.

His communications office said later that the surplus claim was made in jest, and the Maine State Employees Association said the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from repealing labor contracts.

Other clips include the governor’s views on wind power and a claim that he has a strong lead in the polls.

In the latter clip, LePage also says his willingness to take a forceful stand could prove costly. He refers to the long political careers of former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and current Sen. Susan Collins, saying, “Let me tell you about Susan and Olympia. The only way you survive a long time in Maine politics is you sit the fence, and if you don’t, like I’ll be lucky for a full term.”

LePage has acknowledged that his impolitic or inaccurate remarks are costly to his political career. He has vowed recently to have his staff duct-tape his mouth shut. But in a story published by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the governor expressed few regrets for what he has said.

“I have what I consider is a decent sense of humor,” he said in the story. “I don’t take myself very seriously and I have found, in Augusta, politics is very serious and I don’t take it seriously because I don’t like it.”

He said that the only comment he lamented was when he said in a television interview that a Democratic lawmaker was giving it to Maine people without Vaseline.

“It was a terrible one and I regret it ... everything else I’ve said ... I still believe them,” LePage said.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:smistler@pressherald.comTwitter: @stevemistler
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