SACO – Gov. Paul LePage told teachers at a town meeting Friday that they shouldn’t blame him for the state’s unfunded pension liability.

He said Democrats, with teachers’ union support, caused the pension shortfall that led him to propose that teachers pay 2 percent more of their salaries into the pension system and accept a freeze on cost-of-living increases for retirees for three years and an increase in the retirement age from 62 to 65 for new hires.

“You have been sold a bill of goods,” LePage said.

LePage was speaking to a wildly enthusiastic crowd of about 300 people who showed up for the forum at Thornton Academy.

Except for a dozen or so teachers who questioned his approach to the pension controversy, he was greeted with a standing ovation.

Among the supporters was Larry Tracy of Kennebunkport.

“I am fully in tune with his efforts and I wanted to meet him,” Tracy said.

The town meeting was part of LePage’s second Capitol for a Day, events when he visits a region of the state to tour businesses and meet with residents.

He started the day at the unveiling of a new sign on Interstate 95 in Kittery that reads “Open for Business.” LePage then made stops at the Shipyard Brewery, Stonewall Kitchen, Arundel Machine and Sweetser.

At the town meeting in Saco, with several of LePage’s commissioners on hand, members of the audience were asked to write their questions at the door.

A few questions from several broad categories were picked, many of them on subjects LePage has been talking about since he took to the campaign trail in 2010.

He took aim at some of his favorite targets, such as environmental red tape and the media.

“If you buy a newspaper in Maine, it is like paying someone to lie to you,” he said to loud applause.

Several questions focused on charter schools and school vouchers — the governor supports both.

Other people wanted to know how LePage would curb welfare abuse.

One idea, he said, would be to create food debit cards that wouldn’t allow the purchase of certain items, such as lobsters.

LePage said public employees on the front lines are not a problem, but their supervisors and middle managers have issues.

“By summer these issues will be cleaned out,” he said.

But by the end of the night, LePage’s sympathy for teachers appeared to wear out when asked again about cuts to their benefits.

“I feel really bad that teachers have to wait until 65 to retire. I have to wait until I am 67 and a half,” he said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]