What we found beneath the surface of LePage’s final State of the State

Good morning from Augusta. We’re almost done writing about Gov. Paul LePage’s final State of the State address, but there is a lot to discuss that is buried in our verbatim and annotated transcript of his winding, 88-minute, not-quite-a-farewell speech on Tuesday.

He mixed lots of legacy-building throughout the address. LePage is most proud of a few things: paying off Maine’s hospital debt, the state’s low unemployment rate, his welfare “reform” (or cuts) and dumping mandatory fees from state workers to employees’ unions last year. The Maine State Employees’ Union has since lost fees from about 2,000 workers.

His battle with conservationists needs lots of context. LePage pointed to the $18.6 billion in tax-exempt land in Maine cities and towns, mostly making the argument that conservationists need to pay their “fair share” in taxes. But it’s worth noting that governments own the vast majority of that land and a report he provided legislators showing the amounts that cities and towns could get in taxes if they taxed exempt land relies on the idea that they could tax the state. That won’t get much traction in Augusta.

Never trust LePage on fine points of war history. LePage once said that 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War when the actual number was probably around 30. This week, he set his sights on the Vietnam War, saying 38,000 of the American soldiers who died there were 18 years old and that “nearly 45,000” were under 21. He was off by a factor of 12 on that first statistic and by 20,000 on the second, according to commonly accepted figures.

Democrats have a primary brewing in Hancock County

Two state representatives have filed to run for an open Senate seat. Reps. Louis Luchini of Ellsworth and Walter Kumiega of Deer Isle have filed to run in the Democratic primary there. The slightly Democratic-leaning Senate district is represented now by Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who has been targeted for the last three cycles and is now term-limited. Luchini co-chairs the Legislature’s voting committee and Kumiega co-chairs the Marine Resources Committee. Right now, it’s the only Senate primary between sitting legislators.

Where was Ken Fredette for the prison funding vote? In court

Workers and officials from Downeast Correctional Facility were looking for the House minority leader Thursday with the intention of heckling him as he entered the House because they’d heard it would be his House Republican caucus that would likely block a bill to fund the prison that LePage closed last week for another year. That’s what happened, but Fredette wasn’t there for the vote, fueling speculation at the State House that Fredette had intentionally skipped it. Fredette was present for votes on later bills.

But legislative spokespeople said Fredette was arguing a case before Maine’s high court. According to spokespeople for both Fredette and Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon, Fredette, a lawyer, was representing a client in a case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that had been scheduled for months. Fredette spokesman Rob Poindexter tweeted that were Fredette present, he would have voted “in the best interests of the taxpayers.”

Today in A-town

It’s been a busy week in Augusta, but today offers a reprieve, maybe. The only legislative action on the schedule today is the Marijuana Legalization Implementation committee, and that’s just about always on the schedule. Here’s their soundtrack.

Reading list

  • The paper mill in Jay will restart a paper machine, hire 120 people. Verso Corp. announced Thursday it will restart its No. 3 paper machine, which formerly made glossy coated paper, to make packaging materials. The company hopes to perform upgrades and restart the machine in the third quarter of this year.
  • Plans to extend protections to young immigrants failed in the Senate on Thursday. A bipartisan plan championed by Maine Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins got the closest, but could only muster 54 of the required 60 votes to pass. President Donald Trump spent much of the day assailing that bid, which was narrower than the one he backed that only got 39 votes.
  • See where LePage went off-script during the State of the State. We put our verbatim script to use by tracking where the governor veered from his prepared remarks. He may have slightly toned down the speech because of it.

Do me a flavor

We at Daily Brief rarely boast about family accomplishments. Usually, when we write about our loved ones, it’s with the express intent of embarrassing them. But my wife, Melissa Orth, this week accomplished something that only a handful of people on Earth have done.

With a little help from me and a few close friends, she has eaten enough gelato and sorbetto at Gelato Fiasco to have a flavor created and named in her honor. We’ll skip the calculation of the gazillions of calories involved in this historic feat and move right to the key question: What should her flavor be?

She wants it to be distinctive. I suggested prune, but she rejected that because the Gelato Fiasco flagship store only has two bathrooms.

Oatmeal? She loves oatmeal. But placing oatmeal gelato in a waffle cone would probably set off a breakfast war. She rejected mashed potato and lima bean for obvious reasons. (These suggestions give you an idea of what a helpful spouse I am and what a patient spouse she is.)

Penuche was a finalist, but that sounds like a game old Italian men play on the green. So she came up with a splendid signature combination with the working name of “The Li-Berry-an’s Breakfast.”

Here’s a soundtrack that hints at a key ingredient. Here’s another soundtrack hint. We’ll let you know when it’s available. — Robert Long


Yesterday’s Daily Brief said wrongly said that U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, was from North Dakota. We apologize with a soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.