February 4

For LePage, State of the State could be road map for re-election

Maine’s governor is expected to highlight economic recovery and a Republican reform agenda.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage listens to an aide discuss a revision to his third State of the State address Monday during a meeting to compose the speech in the governor's office in Augusta.

Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage works on his third State of the State address Monday with his daughter, Lauren LePage, and Chief of Staff John McGough in the governor's office in Augusta. The governor will present the speech Tuesday during a joint session of the Legislature. Lauren LePage serves as an adviser on the governor's re-election campaign.

Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

The LePage administration has promised to introduce a “major business investment” initiative to create “hundreds of new jobs for Mainers.”

That and other policy initiatives will need support from Democrats, who have controlled the Legislature and blunted the governor’s reform agenda since 2012.

Despite that, the governor pushed through a $400 million package of tax cuts in 2011 and protected it in last year’s two-year budget. His reforms to the state employees’ pension system and accumulating debt have also survived largely unscathed.

The administration and Republicans also believe that LePage has the political advantage with welfare reform, an issue that he has hammered increasingly in 2014. Democrats have said that the governor’s focus on welfare fraud has produced few results despite the significant investment of taxpayers’ money. However, LePage and his re-election campaign continue to make “program integrity” efforts a rhetorical and policy priority.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

LePage and Republicans have also tried to inject welfare reform into the ongoing debate over Medicaid expansion – another issue that’s expected to arise during the State of the State address.

On Monday, Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, the Senate minority leader, said that Democrats’ push for Medicaid expansion – frequently dubbed “welfare expansion” – would lead to financial ruin.

“Democrats are proposing to expand the very welfare program that has just given us a budget shortfall and is responsible for racking up the massive hospital debt that Gov. LePage and Republican lawmakers pushed to pay off,” Thibodeau said in a prepared statement. “Gov. LePage has made it clear that he’s focused on making Medicaid work for the disabled Mainers it was originally intended to help, not able-bodied adults, and I think we can expect him to make that argument Tuesday night.”

The administration has indicated that energy, specifically Maine’s electricity rates, will be a topic of the State of the State address.

LePage has been an advocate for expanding Maine’s natural-gas capacity since he took office in 2011. Last month, he joined the other five New England governors in initiating a first-of-its-kind plan to increase the region’s natural-gas pipeline capacity by nearly 20 percent in three years and build at least one major electric transmission line to bring renewable energy from Canada.

Ratepayers would partially subsidize the billions of dollars needed to fund the projects. But advocates say the costs would be recovered through savings on energy bills as the projects increase supplies of lower-cost power.

Natural gas now fuels more than half of all power-generating plants. A shortage of gas in the region on cold days last year sent wholesale electricity prices up 57 percent over the 2012 average.

The State of the State address, starting at 7 p.m., will be aired live on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and streamed to the Portland Press Herald website.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage reaches for a pen while working on his third State of the State address Monday with his Chief of Staff John McGough, right, Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett and Director of Communications Peter Steele in the governor's office in Augusta.

Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal Staff Photographer

  


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