WATERVILLE — Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday disputed a claim from a member of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce that hospitals in Maine are struggling, saying they have $800 million worth of projects planned in Bangor, Portland and other areas.

“The investment in Augusta has proved to be a massive disaster — they’re the highest-cost hospital in Maine,” LePage said in reference to MaineGeneral Medical Center, as part of wide-ranging comments to a few dozen people at a chamber business breakfast at Thomas College.

LePage, whose talk was billed as an overview of his planned legislative agenda from now until the end of his term, also spoke about the state’s high property taxes and said a six-month study to identify why property taxes are so high in Maine was just completed, and while many think the reason is education, it is actually because of so much property having been taken off the tax rolls — a total of $18 billion in the last two years. The most valuable land in Maine, including that which is along the coast and property placed in conservation, is not taxed, he said.

“It’s just sinful … the rest of us have to pay; we have to double down and pay all the taxes,” he said, adding that if everyone paid his share, the state could lower the tax rate by 25 percent.

Some of the largest landowners are hospitals and they are one of the largest users of public services, according to LePage. Colleges, universities and police departments also are large users of public services, he said.

“Colby (College)’s assessed value is higher than the entire city of Waterville — the same with Bowdoin and Bates,” he said. “The rest of the people in Waterville have to pay for the taxes that are not being paid by Thomas, the hospitals, Colby, Kennebec Valley Community College.”

Waterville has hospitals, colleges, dozens of churches and 108 nonprofit organizations doing business in Waterville, according to LePage, who said conservation properties and other entities being tax-exempt “really hurts the majority.”

Don Plourde, a real estate broker and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, responded to LePage’s comments about hospitals, saying they are “all kind of struggling.”

“Don’t buy that,” LePage said. “Let me tell you this. When I took over, the state of Maine owed hospitals $750 million. We paid them off.”

The federal government, he said, put in $50 million. Hospital construction on the planning board now totals $800 million and smaller hospitals are struggling because “we have a certificate of need controlled by Bangor and Portland.”

The Bangor hospital’s certificate of need totals $250 million, Portland’s is $500 million, and smaller hospitals $50 million, according to LePage.

He said when he was mayor of Waterville he argued against building the hospital in Augusta.

“It is proving out to be a very costly investment,” he said.

LePage said he just sold his home in Florida, where his taxes were $2,000 a year, and taxes on his property in Boothbay are $4,000.

“I’m selling that house, too,” he said. “Maine is a very, very highly taxed state.”

New Hampshire has the number one per capita income in the U.S., with a $74,000 median income, but Maine is roughly in the low $40,000s, he said,

“It need not be that way.”

New Hampshire has no income or sales tax and Maine has one of the highest income taxes in the country, LePage said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17