LePage says he didn’t sign emergency budget bill because of provision he proposed

Gov. Paul LePage’s office said today that the reason he didn’t sign an emergency supplemental budget bill he proposed is because it includes money for Efficiency Maine, which uses taxpayer funds to administer energy efficiency programs in Maine.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett told the Associated Press that LePage is concerned about Maine’s high energy costs, which he said are 11th highest in the nation.

But here’s the wrinkle in that argument: The $664,000 in current-year funding for the Efficiency Maine Trust that was included in the bill — which is now in law without LePage’s signature — is exactly as the LePage administration proposed it. According to both the original bill and chaptered law, the money is meant to help the Efficiency Maine Trust program “align with projected natural gas assessments.”

The program, which funds weatherization and heating efficiency programs, has been a target of LePage in the past. In 2013, he proposed cutting some funding for those programs in favor of re-routing funding to curtail electricity rates for select industries. That bill died in committee.

LePage has long argued against virtually any measure that increases electricity costs at all. The Efficiency Maine Trust, established in 2009, is funded primarily through a “system benefit charge” assessed on all Maine electricity ratepayers, along with proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

In 2015, LePage opposed a bill that sought to correct what was widely described as a typo, which would have cost Efficiency Maine roughly $38 million. He instead supported a competing bill in which House Republicans attempted to create a Maine Department of Energy. The original bill was enacted despite a LePage veto.

As was noted in today’s Bangor Daily News Daily Brief, Bennett and LePage Communications Director Peter Steele have not responded questions posed by the BDN on Wednesday about why LePage declined to sign the supplemental budget bill, which went into law Wednesday anyway.

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.