LePage says he went easy on foes in State of the State

Gov. Paul LePage said his State of the State speech on Tuesday took a soft tone compared to what he wanted to say.

“Frankly, I thought we softened it up because I think they need to look at the mirror,” he said during a radio appearance today on WGAN. “I don’t think I threw the gauntlet down at all. I thought I was kind.”

LePage’s self-assessment comes despite the rough tone of his speech — particularly the first part of it — and the fact he scorched members of the Legislature as “liberals” more than 16 times and blamed them for many of Maine’s problems.

“Mainers need to understand that one ideology for 40 years and we’re 44th in the nation on the prosperity index should tell us all something,” said LePage. “Maybe it’s time we look at the other side and see if there’s some good there.”

Six-plus years into his administration, LePage is showing signs of a new tolerance to work with the Legislature. In recent days, including during Tuesday’s speech and again today on the radio, LePage talked about how impressed he is with Democratic Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash, the Senate minority leader who LePage said has met with him several times in recent weeks. One outcome of those meetings, according to LePage, is new work on drug addiction treatment options that LePage credited Jackson with spearheading.

But LePage’s love doesn’t spread much further than Jackson when it comes to lawmakers, particularly Democrats. Not yet.

“If they’re small-minded, then they’re small-minded then they’re going to have their feelings hurt and so be it. Then we get nothing done,” said LePage. “If they’re broad-minded and they love the state the way that I do, then they’ll want to sit down and work.”

LePage said he thought he impressed both parties when he said Maine needs to pay its public school teachers more.

“They were either getting tired of sitting down and stood up or really believed I was hitting the right chord about getting more money into the classrooms,” said LePage.

Democrats have been advocating for years for paying teachers more, including a bill last session from Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-South Portland, which would have created a $40,000 minimum annual salary for teachers. That bill failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Whatever lawmakers think of LePage’s tone, it could be much worse. For example, LePage could do what he (jokingly) imagines Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, does before football games.

“What he does is he collects all the players’ wives and children and brings them into the locker room,” said LePage. “He has them all hanging upside down. Then he threatens every player. ‘If you lose this game you’re done. And your family is done.’”

This provides an entirely new perspective on the severity of LePage’s tactics. Here’s your soundtrack, governor. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • More support for stronger early childhood education: The Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Educate Maine have teamed to release a new policy brief that recommends nine actions to ensure Maine students receive a strong educational foundation when they are young. The “Strong Foundation for Maine” brief recommends actions that would increase access to early childhood education, increase quality of programs, improve programming for birth to age 3, ensure healthy environments for children and expand preschool opportunities.
  • Opposition to Question 2 didn’t end when it passed on Election Day: Representatives from a statewide coalition of Maine businesses were scheduled to hold a news conference today to urge the Legislature to repeal the 3 percent surtax that was enacted in a November referendum for the benefit of public schools. Attendees are to include the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Course Hospitality Group, The Boulos Company, the Maine Society of Certified Public Accountants, IDEXX, Lebel & Harriman LLP and Wright-Ryan Construction. The gathering is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Courtyard Marriott in Portland.
  • Susan Collins introduces bill to support people dealing with dementia: Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has teamed up with Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to propose a grant program to support public and nonprofit organizations that work to keep dementia patients in their homes longer by offering training and support services for patients and caregivers. The bill follows years of work on the issue by Collins, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee. That included her 2011 introduction of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which later led to congressional approval of a $350 million increase for Alzheimer’s research. Collins and Klobuchar introduced a Senate resolution on the issue earlier this week and also signed a letter to President Donald Trump calling for more research funding.
  • U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is meeting with Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: That’s happening today at 10:15 a.m. Watch bangordailynews.com for coverage. The meeting comes a day after Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, reported that Gorsuch told him in a private meeting that Trump’s comments about the federal appeals courts judges handling his immigration ban case were “disheartening.” Trump started the morning by attacking Blumenthal on Twitter, saying he misrepresented what Gorsuch said.
  • A quiet, snowy day in Augusta: All legislative sessions and committee hearings scheduled for today in Augusta have been canceled because of the income storm. State offices are open, at least for now.

Reading list

Celebrate Joe Pesci’s birthday with videos full of violence and expletives

The great character actor Joe Pesci of mobster-movie fame turns 74 today and it’s hard to find examples of his work that aren’t full of violence, swearing and all-out degeneracy.

So, why bother? Here’s his famed scene from “Goodfellas” with heavy language. Looking for something more PG? I suggest this from “My Cousin Vinny.” And the man is talented enough to also provide your soundtrack. Happy birthday, Joe. — Michael Shepherd

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.