AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage tore into Democratic lawmakers during an animated news conference at the Blaine House on Friday, lashing out at them for opposing two of his tax initiatives and threatening to veto all Democratic-sponsored bills until they pass his plan to eliminate the state income tax.

The 51-minute media event began with LePage assailing Democratic lawmakers for “playing games” after they delayed a committee vote for Public Utilities Commission nominee Bruce Williamson, calling it “disgusting” and “disgraceful.” The governor then launched a broadside against legislators for not authorizing two initiatives: an aggressive tax overhaul plan that LePage embedded in his $6.5 billion two-year budget proposal, and a separate constitutional amendment that would eliminate the income tax by 2020. The latter proposal has become LePage’s focus as his tax overhaul in the budget has failed to garner the support of either Republicans or Democrats in the Legislature. The governor described the overhaul as “dead” a long time ago.

While acknowledging that his vow to veto all Democratic-sponsored bills was playing politics, he accused Democrats of doing the same with his nominee to the PUC.

“I did a bunch (of vetoes) this morning,” he said. “The Maine people deserve to have a say in the income tax, and until (Democrats) lift it, that’s my leverage. And, yes, is that politics? I am playing their game. I am finally learning to play the game of the politician. And it’s despicable what they are doing.”

The Legislature has not yet voted on the constitutional amendment.

LePage’s veto threat extends to the state’s two-year budget. His remarks were delivered as legislative leaders and the Legislature’s budget-writing committee continue to negotiate a deal on the state’s next two-year spending plan. Time is running out to pass a deal before the scheduled June 17 adjournment and avoid a potential government shutdown. Lawmakers and legislative leaders are expected to work through the weekend trying to reach an accord.


An agreement on changes to the state’s tax system remains elusive, splintering Republicans, who control the Senate, and Democrats, who control the House of Representatives. However, the biggest divide appears to be between the Republican leadership in the House and in the Senate.

Asked if Senate Republicans were on board with his budget plans, LePage said, “No,” then implied that Senate leaders are not talking with him.

“I had a meeting the other day with the Republicans and not one single word was said, so I don’t know. They won’t tell me,” LePage said. “I don’t hear anything from the Senate Republicans.”

No members of the Senate leadership were at the governor’s news conference. Rep. Kenneth Fredette, the Republican House leader, was there to join LePage in denouncing the Democrats’ inaction on the PUC nomination. Asked if Republicans are united on the budget and tax reform, he said they are, appearing to contradict LePage’s comments.

“Republicans, including the Senate, are standing firm that there needs to be income tax reduction cuts in this budget,” Fredette said. “That is an ongoing conversation with the Democrats.”

When asked later to clarify the contradiction, LePage dismissed a reporter’s question as “inappropriate” before saying, “Next question.”


The governor also made an array of comments about the Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Mark Eves, of North Berwick, Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and other legislators.

“The Speaker of the House should go back to where he was born and Justin Alfond should be put in a playpen,” LePage said.

Eves, the son of a military chaplain, was born in California.

Alfond responded to the governor’s comments later Friday, saying LePage’s suggestion that Democrats were unwilling to work with his administration were “completely false and have no basis in fact.”

“I would just say, ‘Here we go again,'” Alfond said. “Today, the people of Maine saw the governor throw a temper tantrum and become unhinged. …

“A lot of what the governor has done in his four-plus years is put his partisanship and his priorities above getting stuff done, above compromise and above helping people.”


Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who was in attendance and singled out by LePage during the news conference, later said that the governor was “unglued” and “unhinged.”

“There was quite a lot of anger there,” he said.

McCabe then moved to the budget talks, saying that Democrats were still at the table, “especially with Senate Republicans as we move forward and work on a compromise.”

“If we don’t have a budget by next week, the state is really going to have problems,” he said.

McCabe also said that a budget compromise would likely occur without the governor’s input.

“I think it’s been clear that middle ground with the governor really doesn’t exist,” he said. “We bring forward ideas, he brings forward ideas. We seem to come to the middle and he rejects us. I don’t think we’ll be seeking to come to the middle at this point with the governor. He’s sort of out of the equation.”



Neither Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, nor Majority Leader Sen. Garrett Mason, of Lisbon Falls, was immediately available for comment Friday. Their absence from the news conference is likely to fuel speculation that they are at odds with the governor and the Republican House leader.

It also increases the prospect of a white-knuckle finish to the legislative session, as lawmakers try to cobble together a budget deal that can achieve a two-thirds majority and survive a veto by LePage.

The prospect of lawmakers completing their work by June 17 is diminishing.

At issue is whether lawmakers attach tax changes to the budget, as LePage proposed. Democrats, who released their own tax reform plan in April, have insisted that any income tax cut must be paid for by eliminating some sales tax exemptions for goods and services or other methods. LePage has proposed a similar plan, raising the sales tax and removing exemptions on some goods and services. Republican leadership has not embraced the governor’s plan, in part because it resembles a tax reform plan that Republicans helped defeat in 2010 with a ballot initiative.

Republican leaders released an alternative plan two weeks ago that partially paid for an income tax cut with increases in the meals and lodging tax. However, there has been no public discussion of that plan since its initial release.


The impasse over three competing plans has left lawmakers with two options. The first is to jettison any tax changes and pass a largely status quo budget. The second is to find common ground on tax changes. The likelihood of the second scenario is decreasing as the session hurtles toward adjournment and the June 30 close of the current fiscal year, the end of funding for state government.

Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, expressed pessimism last week that an agreement on taxes can be achieved. She said any changes this late in the session run the risk of doing more harm than good. Senate Republicans have not explicitly said that they also are abandoning changes to the tax code, but speculation has swirled at the State House that they also may seek a status quo budget.

Fredette, meanwhile, indicated that House Republicans won’t settle for a budget that doesn’t include a tax cut – a position directly at odds with the Democratic-controlled House.

The resulting political dynamic could mean that avoiding a government shutdown will be up to Republican leaders in the Senate and Democratic leaders in the House.

Budget passage also would require approval from as many as 19 Republican House members. There are 78 Democrats, 68 Republicans and four independent or unenrolled members in the House. Overriding a gubernatorial veto requires two-thirds of the members present and voting. That means 101 votes would be needed in the 151-member House if all members are present during the budget votes.

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