Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that he could fund some of the items in a budget bill the Legislature is debating today within existing resources but that he hasn’t been given the opportunity — despite the fact that Democrats have been calling on him to submit a supplemental budget for months.
The governor also lashed out at Senate Republicans, accusing them of “caving every time the Democrats ask them to.”
LePage’s comments came during a discussion about the budget bill on his weekly WVOM radio appearance, a day after the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee forwarded two versions of a budget bill to the full Legislature. Democrats and Senate Republicans on the committee voted in favor of an $11 million spending package; House Republicans voted to send virtually all of a $55 million revenue surplus to the state’s rainy day fund.
“You could argue that if they gave the governor the ability to just find them funds internally, we’d get it done in a heartbeat,” said LePage.
Approximately one-third of the $11 million package, which leverages millions more in matching funds, are LePage’s initiatives, including a proposal to ease student debt and raises for state law enforcement officers.
LePage said he could give raises to the state police by using money that is unspent because of 32 vacancies.
“It’s an election year and that’s it,” said LePage. “They all want to go home and say ‘I gave you some money.’ … There’s no amount of your money that this 127th Legislature won’t spend. Thank God there’s some sanity in the House of Representatives, on the Republican side.”
LePage said he is willing to support some new spending — “maybe $3 million or $4 million” — with one major condition: The Legislature must agree to allow a minimum wage question on the November ballot to compete with one that’s already there due to a citizens’ initiative.
“The Legislature would do well to strongly consider a competing measure,” said LePage. “If they consider a competing measure, I will consider their spending.”
In an unrelated matter, LePage lashed out at one of his 2013 political appointees: Maine Public Advocate Timothy Schneider, who represents utility consumers in matters before the Public Utilities Commission.
“He puts up numbers that don’t work and then he tries to sell it as honesty,” said LePage when the radio hosts mentioned Schneider during a discussion about solar power. “One of the worst, worst decisions ever in my life.”