LePage: Passing referendums will make Maine an economic wasteland

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage has said he’ll move south if Mainers pass Questions 2 and 4 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

This is nothing new. LePage has for months rallied against Question 2, which would implement a 3 percent surtax on income over $200,000 to increase state aid to public schools, and Question 4, which would raise the state’s minimum wage. On Tuesday during his regular appearance on WVOM radio, LePage painted a picture of a post-election Maine as an economic disaster zone. What happens if those questions pass, asked one of the hosts?

“We need to move south,” said LePage. “It’s hopeless. If they put in a $12 minimum wage, I’m going to ride it out and when the next governor is being inaugurated, I’ll be at 37,000 feet. … If the people of Maine don’t really care about the state of Maine and the prosperity of the state of Maine, maybe it’s time to start looking elsewhere.”

While LePage rails against the referendums, they are both enjoying leads in the polls and proponents say they’ll have the opposite effect of what LePage describes. They argue that a higher minimum wage will create more cash flow in the economy and reduce demand on social services. Meanwhile, backers of Question 2 claim more state funding for schools would ease pressure on property taxes and better equip schools to send skilled students into the workforce.

However, LePage’s administration has been determined to cut income taxes and cut costs for businesses, which means Questions 2 and 4 are 180 degrees against his goals and in the case of the income tax, unravel progress he’s already made.

LePage quipped about what led to these proposals and what we should do if they pass.

“We must have had a full moon for over a month because nobody would come up with this kind of disaster scheme,” he said. “I suppose we could all stay high. If marijuana (Question 1) passes we could all stay high.”

Here’s his soundtrack.

As for the presidential election, LePage said if Democrat Hillary Clinton wins, it will affirm an economic and political gulf that he said exists between Washington insiders and average Americans.

“We’re a country of elitists and serfs,” he said. “You and I are the serfs and the people inside the beltway are the elitists. … The Wall Street people run the country and they pay to play with the people in Washington. It’s simple.”

LePage’s “elitists and serfs” analogy offers a new take on Republican attacks against Clinton, who collected large fees for speaking privately to Wall Street groups, and who has been accused by Republicans of offering “pay for play” political favoritism. The analogy loses a bit of its sting when one notes that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a billionaire and that LePage, who had a successful career in business, earns $70,000 and lives in a mansion because he is governor.

Life won’t be simple for LePage if the referendums pass and certainly not if Democrats win majorities in the Maine House or Senate, or both. However, LePage said he’ll finish his term, squashing occasional speculation that he will resign before the end of his second term, possibly to take a job in Trump’s administration should the Republican nominee win.

“I was elected governor of the state of Maine and I intend to see it through,” he said. “There is nothing in the administration that interests me.” — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • More CD2 ads: Democrat Emily Cain, who is trying to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, has released two new advertisements just a week before Election Day. Both focus on what has been a sustained theme for Cain’s campaign: her willingness to work with Republicans. You can watch her ads here and here. Meanwhile, the Congressional Leadership Fund has launched another new ad against Cain, completing its pledged $1.1 million independent expenditure campaign against her. If you haven’t already been barraged with the ad via your television, check it out by clicking here.
  • Another award for Collins: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins will receive Maine Community Action’s 2016 Star of Community Action award today at the Aroostook Community Action Program Center in Houlton. The award is given to a person who has advocated for or defended low-income people in the face of serious challenges and made a difference in the lives of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.
  • Another award for Poliquin: Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine was awarded the Defender of Housing Award by the National Association of Home Builders on Friday during a ceremony in Orono. The award was given to highlight Poliquin’s efforts to eliminate roadblocks to home ownership in Maine.
  • Absentee ballot edge: Maine Democrats lead Republicans nearly 2 to 1 in absentee ballot returns, according to the Maine Democratic Party and the Portland Press Herald. More than 55,800 Democrats have returned absentee ballots, as opposed to 32,400 Republicans. But Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight voting analysis site warns not to put much stock in that.

Reading list

Does debating yourself constitute a debate?

For months, Jim Bouchard of Brunswick has lamented being left out of media reports about the 1st Congressional District race between incumbent Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree and Republican challenger Mark Holbrook.

On Monday, Bouchard decried that he was denied participation in a recent Maine Public debate and Monday night, his campaign staged its own debate on Facebook Live, with Bouchard’s campaign manager asking him some of the same questions that were asked of Pingree and Holbrook during the Maine Public debate.

“Even without the media giving us coverage, our campaign is resonating way beyond Maine,” said Bouchard in a news release.

Here’s what the press release didn’t say: Bouchard’s name is not on the Nov. 8 ballot. He is running as a write-in candidate and has no chance of winning the election. But maybe it’s not about being elected. The Libertarians are in the process of becoming an official political party in Maine and to do so, they must send at least 10,000 registered Libertarians to the polls on Election Day. Bouchard’s campaign could be more about that than going to Washington.

“November 8 is not the end, but just a new beginning for our campaign,” he said. But that doesn’t change the fact that a debate, by design usually has more than one person involved. — 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.