Democrats Say They Can Work With LePage 

Democrats say when it comes to identifying the state’s problems, they actually agree with Governor LePage. But when it comes to solutions, that’s where the two sides go their separate ways.The governor’s second state of the state address is receiving a lukewarm reception from Democrats. They are vehemently opposed to LePage’s plan to cut the state’s revenue sharing with municipalities, calling it a massive tax shift on to the middle class.But when it comes to the LePage plan to pay off the state’s $484 million MaineCare debt to hospitals using state liquor revenue, they have yet to outright oppose the idea. “We are committed to making sure we pay all of our debt obligations,” Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves said Wednesday. “We have consistently paid from fiscal year ’05 to 2010 some $750 million to the hospital debt.”Senate President Justin Alfond says lawmakers need to have a discussion about all of the state’s debt before committing to paying off the entire hospital debt. “What we want to make sure of is that these three conversations are three different conversations. We understand the debt and we need to pay back that debt. The liquor contract is something we want to keep all options on the table,” Alfond said.The governor’s sense of urgency about paying back the hospitals has another of the state’s creditors feeling a bit left out. The Maine Education Association says if the governor wants to pay Maine’s bills, he should start by funding education the full amount required by law. “When the hospital association asks the governor to pay Maine’s bills he said yes. Paying education is also Maine’s bill and the state should step up,” said Rob Walker, Executive Director of the Maine Education Association.There is one good sign for Mainers who’ve grown tired of the partisan bickering. LePage finally met with Democratic leaders this week and early indications are, while it may be a bumpy ride, the two sides can work together on solving Maine’s problems. “Now we move forward with this great opportunity that he wants to hear from us,” Alfond said. “That door is open. He said look I want to hear from Democrats, especially you two. Come in here, let’s talk about the issues. Let’s move the state forward.”