LePage Blows Up At Independents For Questioning His Budget Proposal
It’s been two-and-a-half months since the November election, and Governor LePage has still not met with the new Democratic leadership.Three Independents did get a meeting with the governor, but they say LePage blew up at them while discussing his new budget proposal.Independent Representatives Ben Chipman of Portland, Joe Brooks from Winterport, and Jeffrey Evangelos from Friendship say the governor’s proposal to suspend municipal revenue sharing for two years could lead to a property tax hike of as much as $600 for some of their constituents and some vital services would be cut.When the three state representatives met with LePage to discuss those concerns, according to them, the governor was having none of it. “The governor immediately threw his hands in the air, slammed them down on the table, and said, ‘That’s it. You guys are idiots. You’re worse than those on the third floor.’ I assume he meant the Democrats, because he won’t meet with them,” Brooks said Tuesday.Evangelos said it didn’t take long for LePage to lose his cool after he was questioned about the suspension of revenue sharing. Evangelos said when he asked the governor why he was proposing it as part of his supplemental budget, LePage told him it was part of his plan to get schools and municipalities in line with his plan. Part of that plan is reducing the number of school superintendents to one per county. “I pointed out to the governor that we’re facing this income tax cut for the wealthiest Mainers at the same time he’s proposing hiking local property taxes for those that aren’t able to pay. That did not receive a good reception and the governor lost his temper,” Evangelos said.Portland Independent Ben Chipman said city councilors and the mayor have expressed their concern over the governor’s plan. “You know, he was very upset and I understand he’s very passionate about the idea of trying to lower taxes and we all want to lower taxes. But we also have to find a way to pay for roads and bridges and schools and all the things that people want,” Chipman said.The three lawmakers say LePage stormed out of the room after his blow up, but returned a few minutes later and agreed to take revenue sharing out of the budget if he were brought a plan to get $250 million worth of cuts to replace it. “I suggested maybe raising the lodging tax for instance from 7% to maybe 9 or 10%, but any suggestions like that were not received very well by the governor,” Chipman said.Another suggestion was to roll back some of the income tax cuts passed last session but again, the independents say the governor balked.The meeting only lasted about forty minutes and no common ground was found. But the independents were left with a sour taste in their mouths and the thought that a sitting governor should be able to voice a difference of opinion without insulting people or acting juvenile. “The raising of the voice and the name calling and the leaving and the coming back in, that kind of behavior I would find unprofessional,” Chipman said. “I just think that people that send us to Augusta, whatever kind of elected official you are, whether you’re a member of the House or Senate or the governor, especially the governor, I think the citizens of Maine expect you to behave in a certain way.”As of now there is no plan for the Independents to meet with the governor again. We asked governor LePage’s office about the meeting with the Independents and were told the governor had no comment.