FARMINGDALE — Gov. Paul LePage said he wants prosperity rather than poverty for Mainers and he promoted his campaign to eliminate the state income tax on Tuesday night at a town hall-style meeting at Hall-Dale High School.

“All I’m trying to do is make us prosperous like some other states in the nation,” LePage said.

He described his top issues – taxation being the most important – to a largely quiet audience of about 60 people. He also said he wants to help people pay off higher education loans and that the state’s opiate addiction crisis must be addressed, but that it is up to the state Legislature to pass laws that will accomplish these goals.

LePage referred to Democrats legislators as socialists, and said many Democratic leaders have endorsed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, “who claims to be a socialist, who has said that if he is elected president, there’s going to be free education and free health care throughout the country.”

The governor said the outstanding national debt of almost $20 million makes that impossible.

He also criticized the Democrat-controlled state House of Representatives, saying it had failed to approve a bill to make the state tax code conform with federal tax code. Rep. Gay M. Grant, D-Gardiner, told LePage the House had passed the bill. The Senate already had approved a similar bill.

LePage took a number of questions submitted in writing from the audience.

Chad Leighton, of West Gardiner, wanted to know why the operation of the ASPIRE (Additional Support for People in Retraining and Employment) program – a welfare-to-work project of the Maine Department of Labor – is being contracted out to a private agency. Leighton said he and other state workers will lose their jobs.

LePage said previous administrations had waived the work requirement for two-parent households, something LePage said violates federal law, and the program now owes the federal government $29 million.

Wanda Burns Macomber, of Pittston, said she works with the ASPIRE program. “Why aren’t we revamping our own program? Because once putting something out to contract, you lose control.”

He said the Legislature would have to change the law governing the program so it adheres to federal requirements.

Phil Rose, of Farmingdale, asked him why the Maine State Police have been unable to fill 40 or so vacant trooper positions. LePage said the salaries for those positions are too low to attract applicants.

“I have a bill in asking for a higher pay scale,” LePage told him, adding that the state also has 15 to 20 vacancies in the Maine Warden Service and eight to 10 in the Department of Marine Resources.

 


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