AUGUSTA— Republican Gov. Paul LePage wants to set aside $2 million in Maine’s budget to cover legal fees in cases not supported by the state’s top attorney, a Democrat who has disagreed with the governor on a number of issues during his first term.

The $6.3 billion budget proposal that LePage unveiled last week includes $1 million in each of the next two fiscal years for “legal contingencies in which the attorney general declines to represent the state.”

LePage’s administration said that the governor is pursuing an “aggressive agenda” and wants to ensure the funds are available if he must pursue outside counsel in the future.

But Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills, called it “baffling and unprecedented” that the governor would need $2 million for private attorneys. He said there have only been two cases in which the attorney general has authorized LePage to hire outside counsel because of a disagreement between the two offices.

LePage hired private lawyers last year to appeal the federal government’s denial of his request to remove about 6,000 young adults from the state’s Medicaid program, after Mills told the governor the case had “little legal merit” and wouldn’t be a good use of money.

The Associated Press reported last week that that the administration paid nearly $53,000 out of the governor’s contingency fund to Portland law firm Roach, Hewitt, Ruprecht, Sanchez & Bischoff to pursue the case, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request.


His administration has also hired the firm to defend the state in a lawsuit filed by the Maine Municipal Association and two cities that are challenging the state’s policy to withhold general assistance benefits to immigrants who are living in the state illegally.

Mills has said that LePage doesn’t have the authority to implement the change in welfare regulations.

Peter Steele, a spokesman for LePage, said the governor believes that the money is good to have in case it’s needed. He said LePage wants to use the money in his contingency fund to help nonprofit organizations and community projects, as he typically does, not to pay legal fees.

A similar proposal in LePage’s budget plan two years ago would have transferred $300,000 from the Mills’ office to the governor’s office for matters in which she refuses to represent the administration, but it was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Feeley said that the attorney general’s office “provides the best legal advice and representation possible to the administration and its agencies” and that the few times it has decided not to represent the state have been because of an ethical conflict or because it didn’t think the administration could in the case.

“We have no reason to suspect that the governor will persist in pursuing cases against our legal advice,” he said.

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