Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that the 127th Legislature, which finished most of its business early Saturday morning, is “the worst since I’ve been governor.”
“It’s just horrendous,” said LePage on his weekly appearance on WVOM radio.
At the top of a list of gripes from LePage was enactment of a major rewrite of Maine’s solar energy policy, which would add 196 megawatts of solar energy to the state’s energy portfolio by 2020. That’s nearly 10 times as much solar energy in the grid in Maine today. Proponents also argued that the bill would help diversify Maine’s energy portfolio and create hundreds of jobs.
However, LePage and other opponents of the bill contend that it will increase electricity rates for all Mainers. LePage lashed out at Republicans in the Senate, where support for the bill was unanimous.
“Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves,” said LePage. “[It was] 35-0 in the Senate and they’re going to bring our energy production costs to 15 cents [per kilowatt hour]. Unbelievable.”
LePage also said that he will veto a bill that will provide raises for workers at state-run psychiatric hospitals in Augusta and Bangor, including the beleaguered Riverview Psychiatric Center, which has struggled to recruit and retain workers in recent years.
“Wages wasn’t the problem at Riverview,” said LePage. “The problem at Riverview is that we have a certain senator who likes to have it on the front page every day that it’s a bad place to work. That’s absolutely false.”
Though LePage didn’t name him, he was referring to Augusta Republican Sen. Roger Katz, who sponsored the bill and has long been a proponent of changes at Riverview that would reverse the hospital’s loss of federal accreditation in 2013.
“The Legislature likes to blame the administration for being incompetent and sometimes they ought to look in the mirror,” said LePage.
On a positive note, the governor said he was pleased with two bond bills that if approved by voters in November and next June would provide $100 million for transportation projects and $50 million for research and development, much of the latter to help Jackson Laboratories expand its footprint in Maine.
He was also pleased with a $150 million facilities bond — which doesn’t require voter approval — enacted by the Legislature. That money will create additional capacity at Windham Correctional Facility for a drug addiction treatment facility as well as mental health, senior citizen and female units. LePage, who advocated for the prison bond, said that project ranks as one of his top accomplishments.
“I look at that as probably about as big as paying the hospitals off,” he said. “We’re going to tie it into our county jails so we’ll have a statewide treatment system. For those who choose to recover from addiction, we’re going to help them. For those those who choose not to … they’ll be in jail.”