LISBON — His tax reform plan all but dead in the Legislature, Gov. Paul LePage continued to make the case Tuesday that his proposal is the path to prosperity, saying that the people of Maine have been “snookered” by lawmakers during the current budget debate.

During a town hall forum at a church in Lisbon – his 10th since February – LePage said if the Legislature won’t act on his plan to lower income taxes, he’ll personally lead a citizens initiative. He also urged those in attendance to contact their lawmakers.

“Get rid of the income tax or get rid of the bums who don’t let you have a say,” the governor said.

The audience of about 100 people inside the Open Door Bible Baptist Church appeared receptive to the governor’s message, which wasn’t surprising given the town’s support for LePage in November’s election. LePage won with 48 percent of the vote, but he had 60 percent support among Lisbon voters.

Roger Bickford of Lisbon was among those who attended, and he pleaded with the governor to “stay the course.”

“I’ll try,” LePage replied. “Some days I wake up and say, I wish I was in Florida.”


The goal of the town hall forums has been to build support for his plan to dramatically shift tax policy in Maine. The governor wants to eliminate the income tax entirely by 2020 and make up for that lost revenue by increasing sales taxes and continuing budget cuts. He also wants to eliminate the estate tax and lower the corporate tax rate from 8.93 percent to 6.75 percent.

However, budget negotiations in the Legislature over the past several days have largely taken the governor’s proposals out of the conversation.

Over the weekend, Senate Republicans joined House and Senate Democrats on the Appropriations Committee in casting a series of non-binding budget-related votes.

They included:

Rejecting LePage’s proposal to increase the sales tax to offset an income tax cut.

Retaining current state aid to municipalities, also known as municipal “revenue sharing,” at $62.5 million per year. The governor had proposed eliminating revenue sharing in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.


Retaining the current Homestead property tax exemption at $10,000 for a resident who has owned a home for at least 12 months. LePage had proposed eliminating the exemption for homesteaders below the age of 65 and doubling the exemption to $20,000 for people 65 and older.

Rejecting the governor’s proposed cuts to the Medicaid Savings Plan and the Drugs for Elderly program.

The Appropriations Committee has yet to vote out a full budget, but the real fight could be on the House floor.

Although Senate Republicans have worked with Democrats on a compromise, House Republicans, led by minority leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport, vowed this week to fight “tooth and nail” to pass a budget that includes income tax cuts and more welfare reform.

LePage on Tuesday criticized the series of “back door deals” made in the Appropriations Committee. He has called out lawmakers repeatedly, including those in his own party who have worked with Democrats on a compromise.

The forum was held in Lisbon, hometown of Republican Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, who has broken with the governor in recent days. Mason did not attend the town hall and LePage did not mention him by name.


When one forum attendee suggested to LePage that more compromise is needed, the governor replied that he comes to work every day willing to compromise, but only on what he sees as good policy.

He also said for the first time that if the Legislature isn’t willing to cut the income tax, he’ll personally lead a citizens initiative to put a question on the ballot.

On the issue of taxes, LePage said Maine has been a “three-legged stool” for too long, referring to income tax, sales tax and property tax as the three main streams of revenue.

“We need to get off that three-legged stool and get on a bike and start pedaling,” he said.

The governor spoke for about a half hour Tuesday and then took questions for another half hour. He didn’t have a script and his remarks ranged from welfare reform, to problems with refugees and asylum seekers, to his belief that Maine should offer an ethanol-free gas alternative.

Tuesday’s forum followed previous events held in Westbrook, Saco, Auburn, Belfast, Bangor, Ellsworth, Machias, Presque Isle and Skowhegan.

Although the Legislature is nearing the end of the current session, LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor will continue to hold forums “into the foreseeable future.”

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by June 17. Per state law, a budget must be passed by June 30 in order to avoid a government shutdown.

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