Gov. Paul LePage said he wasn’t happy with the deal that leveraged $16 million in taxpayer money to try to revive the Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket, but a deal’s a deal.

Speaking at a Portland Regional Chamber breakfast this morning, LePage had concluded a presentation heavy on his attempts to eliminate Maine’s income taxes when he opened the floor to questions. Ethan Strimling, a former Democratic state senator from Portland, asked the governor if there was a way to get some of the $16 million committed in tax credits, issued to induce investment in the mill in 2012, returned to the taxpayer.

Despite the tax credits, no money was invested to upgrade the mill, which was owned by New Hampshire’s Cate Street Capital. The mill closed in February 2014 and filed for bankruptcy the following September.

The deal was the subject of Maine Sunday Telegram investigation published Sunday.

“I’ll tell you, was I happy about that deal? No,” he said. “But when you make the deal, you make the deal. I don’t know how you stop that” (awarding tax credits despite the failure of the mill).

LePage said energy costs contributed mightily to the closure of mills in East Millinocket, Bucksport and Old Town, and had the Legislature been proactive about adopting his energy initiatives, some of those closures could have been avoided.


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