February 6, 2013

LePage less combative at second State of the State

The governor says he will fast-track natural gas proposals and start grading public schools on an A-B-C-D-F grading system to hold them accountable.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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Leigh I. Saufley Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, left, and Gov. Paul LePage enter the House before he delivers his the State of the State address on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 at the State House in Augusta. LePage is shaking hands with Rep. Craig V. Hickman, D-Winthrop.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Staff photo by Joe Phelan Gov. Paul LePage gestures while giving the State of the State address on Tuesday February 5, 2013 in the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Quotes from the governor’s State of the State address:

ON EDUCATION: “Many people say I’m an angry person. I will say this. I’m a very passionate person about education. I speak passionately because education is what saved my life. I cannot accept any child not being given the same opportunity I had.”

ON CHARTER SCHOOLS: “School choice should not be just for the wealthy and the elite. ... All Maine students deserve an equal chance of success, whether you live in Cape Elizabeth or Fort Kent. This is how we break the cycle of generational poverty for Maine’s children.”

ON JOBS: “Folks, if you want to create a job, I want to be there to help you. However, let me be perfectly clear. I am not interested in helping those who increase the cost of living on Maine people for personal financial gain.”

ON MAINE’S UNPAID HOSPITAL BILLS: “Hard-working Maine families face two choices, pay their bills or face the debt collector. It is embarrassing that state government is not held to the same standard as every Maine household.”

ON ENERGY: “We are killing ourselves with high energy costs. ... “My predecessor fast-tracked permitting for wind projects. We’re going to do the same for natural gas.”

ON HIS FIERY PERSONALITY: “That’s why I’m always angry, domestic violence, taxes, energy costs ... it’s a terrible thing. But I’m doing better. I’m working on it.”

He challenged the Maine Education Association, the teachers union, to set aside a portion of union dues to put "into the classroom," which he said he would match with a portion of money.

He said Maine has the highest per-pupil administrative costs in the nation.

U.S. Census data doesn't quite support that claim. In 2009-10, it says, Maine was behind Vermont and the District of Columbia, spending $1,220 per student.

LePage also urged legislators to support his plan to borrow money to pay the state's $186 million debt to Maine's hospitals. The borrowing would be repaid with money from a renegotiated wholesale liquor contract.

LePage called it "embarrassing to work for a state government that doesn't pay its bills."

In a news conference, Democrats said they are committed to paying hospitals, but liquor money should be looked at in the context of the entire budget.

Despite many quibbles on policy, both sides praised the governor's tone in his speech.

"I think the governor struck the right tone of passionate advocacy for Maine children and families," House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said in a prepared statement. "Our policies must, above all else, ensure that Mainers have bigger paychecks, lower bills, and our children have a brighter future right here in the state that we love."

The governor, wearing a blue tie, gave Alfond a one-armed hug near the House rostrum just before the speech. They have had a publicly chilly relationship so far this session.

After the speech, Alfond, fresh off a long-awaited meeting Monday between LePage and Democratic leaders, said he thinks bad blood may have subsided.

"In 24 hours, it's 'Kumbaya,' " Alfond joked. "Now it's time for us to do the important work that's ahead of us."

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at: mshepherd@mainetoday.com

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Additional Photos

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Speaker of the House Mark W. Eves, D-North Berwick, left, chats with Gov. Paul LePage before the governor gives the State of the State address on Tuesday February 5, 2013 in the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Staff photo by Joe Phelan Senate President Justin Alfon, left, claps during Gov. Paul LePage's State of the State address on Tuesday February 5, 2013 in the State House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan


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