AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage vowed Friday to veto every Democratic-sponsored bill that gets to his desk for the rest of the time he’s in office unless the Legislature agrees to let residents weigh in on whether to get rid of the income tax.

“The Maine people deserve to have a say on the income tax and until they lift it, that’s my leverage,” LePage said during a wide-ranging and spirited news conference at the Blaine House. “And yes, is that politics? I’m playing their game. I’m finally learning to play the game of the politician.”

LePage wants to pass a constitutional amendment ”“ which would require voter approval ”“ to prohibit the state from collecting the income tax beginning in 2020. But his effort is fiercely opposed by Democrats who question how the state would make up the $1.7 billion in annual general fund revenue that would disappear.

LePage called Democrats’ actions this session “disturbing,” “repugnant” and “disgraceful.” He pointed at Democratic House Leader Jeff McCabe, who attended the event, saying, “Shame on you.”

After the governor’s remarks, McCabe said LePage has come “a little bit unglued.”

“I think back home that’s the kind of politics that really upsets people,” McCabe said. “That kind of … name calling just isn’t really appropriate when trying to work in divided government.”

The Taxation Committee recently rejected LePage’s constitutional amendment along party lines, and the measure has yet to come up for a vote in the Democratic-led House or Republican-controlled Senate. It will need two-thirds support of lawmakers in both chambers ”“ the same support Democrats will need to override a possible flurry of vetoes by LePage.

The governor suggested Friday that he also would veto the state budget if lawmakers send him a version that doesn’t include any income tax cuts, raising the specter of a government shutdown, which will happen if a budget isn’t in place by June 30. Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee have been negotiating for weeks and still haven’t reached a budget deal, but LePage acknowledged that the tax overhaul plan he sent to Legislature in January is “dead.”

This isn’t the first time LePage has vowed to use his veto pen as leverage. In 2013, he threatened to veto every bill lawmakers passed until they approved his plan to pay off a debt owed to the state’s hospitals. LePage didn’t follow through on his threat, but the Legislature did eventually pass a hospital debt payment plan.

The governor also blasted Democrats on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee for deciding Thursday to delay their decision on whether to endorse his nominee to the Public Utilities Commission, Bruce Williamson. He called Democrats “children” who were playing political games instead of trying to get work done for the people.

“This is not why I work 80 hours a week on behalf of the Maine people to have these children come and play in the Statehouse,” he said. He added that Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves should “go back to where he was born” and that Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond should be “put in the playpen.” Eves was born in California.

Democrats on the committee said Thursday that they need more time to consider the nomination of Bruce Williamson before voting, noting that commissioners play an important role in shaping energy policy and serve six-year terms. The committee has until June 8 to consider his nomination.



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