LePage answers question about Maine energy prices by blasting Cianbro’s Peter Vigue

Good morning from Augusta (as far as you know). Sometimes, we write the Daily Brief from our living rooms but open with greetings from the capital as a signal to you, our loyal readers, that we’re going to tell what’s going on in Maine politics.

We hope you don’t mind. “Good morning from Augusta” seems like a better lead-in than “good morning from my couch, where I’m still wearing Bruins pajama pants, where my cat is snuggled up and where I haven’t brushed my hair.”

I do have a radio, however, and as has become a Tuesday tradition for me, I listened to Gov. Paul LePage’s mostly-weekly radio appearance on WVOM (you can listen to the whole thing yourself by clicking here), since it represents a somewhat rare chance to hear LePage speak to the public. Requests for interviews with LePage by newspaper reporters are flatly denied and have been for years.

LePage was fairly relaxed this morning as the radio hosts led him through a review of veto day last Friday in Augusta, when 20 of LePage’s last round of vetoes for the year were rejected. Lawmakers sustained 12 vetoes and let one bill die in a procedural maneuver. LePage criticized lawmakers for passing bills without funding them — even though that happens every session in Augusta.

“They just deceive the Maine people,” said LePage. “The Legislature will come out and pass all these bills and it sounds like really good legislation. The problem is they never fund it.”

LePage’s comments are based in truth, though they leave out some context. It’s true that numerous bills are “passed” in Augusta but don’t take effect because of a lack of funding. The reality is that any bill that has an impact on the state’s General Fund is set aside until the end of the legislative session, when it is clear how much of a revenue surplus is available — if any — and when all the bills and their price tags can be prioritized as a group. This year, LePage and House Republicans stonewalled almost any new spending from the General Fund, forcing the demise of dozens of bills in the name of fiscal conservatism.

LePage also used the radio appearance to push back against recent comments made by Cianbro Chairman Peter Vigue to the Bangor Daily News. Vigue, a Republican, said LePage’s frequent comments about Maine’s high energy costs misrepresent the facts because Maine’s energy rates compare favorably to other New England states. Worse, said Vigue, such comments from the state’s top elected official “affects the economy of the state and the perception that people have of our state.”

LePage shot back at Vigue in response to questions from the radio hosts about his successful veto of a new solar energy policy, which LePage contends would have moved energy prices in Maine in the wrong direction.

“This is the problem with Peter Vigue’s comments,” said LePage. “They were self-serving because he was going to be a beneficiary of the solar industry.”

LePage said higher energy prices would hasten the exodus of Maine’s paper mills.

“They’re leaving because our energy is not competitive,” said LePage.

Vigue’s comments — which did not directly address the solar bill — have been used to add to the backlash of the failure of the solar bill. As you read Monday in the Daily Brief, some are criticizing arguments by LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette about the bill, including one who said they’re “disingenuous as shit.”

The governor also addressed the Legislature’s override of a bill that would make Narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, more available to the public, including a crass comment that will feed controversy around his stance on the issue.

He called Narcan “false security” for addicts and that forcing them into a rehabilitation program is a better solution. LePage led the passage of a $150 million bond to make improvements at Windham Correctional Facility, including a drug abuse treatment facility.

“The first time you catch [addicts] is the time you put them into rehab and you keep putting them in rehab,” said LePage. “I’m not advocating putting them into jail but I don’t advocate giving them a shot of Narcan, get up off the floor of the bathroom and go back to class at Deering High School.” — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Republican Ande Smith has released his first campaign ad against Democratic 1st U.S. House District Rep. Chellie Pingree. The animated commercial criticizes Pingree for a recent trip she took to Cuba to study the benefits of that country’s organic farming. Smith, an attorney and small business owner, has posted the commercial on his website and promised a sequel. The ad, titled “out of touch,” called for this high-quality soundtrack.
  • Gov. Paul LePage will host his next town hall meeting beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Lewiston Ramada and Conference Center at 490 Pleasant St. in Lewiston. LePage said on WVOM today that this town hall would be particularly important because he will talk about an issue specific to Lewiston, though he didn’t provide any other details. In the past, LePage has advocated for a merger of Lewiston and Auburn into a single city. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Even a free-range parent has to draw the line somewhere

My wife and I keep our children on a loose leash and whenever possible, let them make their own decisions.

We let them play in the mud. We let them run and scream, outside at least. This pains me, but we let our older boy put gel in his hair for school. And we let him follow various superstitions when it comes to sports.

Last year, he wouldn’t let us wash his baseball socks for the entire season. Disgusting, I know, but we let it go. We did have a rule that he would be the only human to be in physical contact with the socks.

We were doing laundry recently and put his jock strap in with the load.

“You are NOT washing that until the end of the season,” he said, drawing an instant veto from his mother and me.

“Well,” I said. “I guess you’re going to lose some games this year.”

I’m not a follower of superstitions, but I admit I was secretely relieved when his team won their first game. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.