March 9, 2013

LePage takes fight on road

The governor says he’ll continue to withhold bonds until the hospital debt is resolved.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Gov. Paul LePage speaks to the media Friday during his visit to Roopers Beverage in Auburn to discuss his plan to pay back hospital debt by leveraging future liquor sale revenue.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Gov. Paul LePage listens to Paul Landry, owner of Fish Bones American Grill, talk to the media about the governor's plan to pay back the hospital debt by leveraging future liquor sale revenue. The news conference took place at Roopers Beverage in Auburn on Friday.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Last year, the state's share was about $8.5 million. Gerry Reid, the state's director of alcoholic beverages and lottery operations, has estimated that Maine could collect as much as $45 million each year by renegotiating the contract.

In addition to borrowing against future liquor revenue to pay the hospitals now, LePage's bill would lower the cost of some liquor in Maine to help the state be more competitive with New Hampshire. The governor said it also would help retailers "be a little more . . . profitable."

LePage tried to shore up support for the bill Friday, first from Steve Roop, who owns Roopers Beverage and other liquor stores in the area, and later from Laird Covey, president of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, which will be paid $51 million if the governor's deal is approved.

"It's very urgent for us," Covey said after the governor finished an hour-long tour of the hospital. "It's been an issue for 10 years."

Covey called the governor's proposal a "concrete plan" to pay down the debt immediately. He said he has not seen any other ideas.

Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, has sponsored a competing liquor bill that will be heard Monday. Like the governor's proposal, it would allow private firms to bid on a 10-year contract.

Unlike LePage's plan, it would require the winner to make an upfront payment and would not earmark revenue for specific uses.

While Democrats continue to criticize the governor for his tactics, LePage said, "I've tried everything with those guys. They simply don't want to deal."

Asked why he didn't propose the bill when he had a more sympathetic legislature -- he had Republican majorities in the House and Senate for his first two years as governor -- LePage responded, "When did I have that?"


Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at
Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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Additional Photos

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Gov. Paul LePage hugs supporter Laurie Steele after speaking to the media during his visit to Roopers Beverage in Auburn on Friday.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer


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