Governor enraged during meeting with local legislators

LePage reveals 'end-game' for biennial budget, will veto revenue-raising bills
By Juliette Laaka | Jan 21, 2013
Independent Representative Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship.

A little over a minute into a meeting between a local legislator and Gov. Paul LePage, conversation escalated. The governor, incensed by concerns about his budget, brought his fists down on the table, pointed at legislators and yelled: "You came here to tell me this sh*t?"

"There was so much anger and immaturity in his [LePage's] reaction," said Independent Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos.

Evangelos, of Friendship, along with two fellow Independent legislators — Joseph Brooks of Winterport and Benjamin Chipman of Portland — met with LePage Jan. 15 to introduce themselves and discuss the effects of the budget on their constituents.

Evangelos said he told the governor that shifting financial burdens onto municipalities and school districts — results of the slashed municipal revenue sharing, curtailment order and retirement share allotted to districts — will raise the average property owner's share by $500 in his district.

This increase could jeopardize citizens' ability to pay, he said.

According to Brooks, LePage then told legislators, "You are worse than them." Brooks assumed LePage was referring to the Democrats.

State Democrats have not yet met with LePage.

"It's a dramatic, historic shift to the regressive property tax and away from progressive taxes," said Evangelos. "The message that there were no tax increases to the budget isn't true."

The shift affects the elderly on a fixed income and low-income wage earners the most, Evangelos said, adding, "He's playing the towns for suckers."

Evangelos said LePage's deputy chief of staff, Kathleen Newman, bowed her face and shook her head when LePage left the cabinet room in a huff and slammed the door.

Evangelos reported that he said to her, "When people can't come in here and relay to the governor impacts of his strategies that affect our people, you've got a real problem."

Evangelos and his colleagues, "never flinched and never lost our tempers. We refused to be intimidated," he said.

LePage came back to the meeting a few minutes later, Evangelos reported, and said he would put $200 million back into the budget if the three representatives told him where the money would come from.

Evangelos said alternatives include reversing the tax cuts for the wealthiest in the state, and a variety of proposals — from both parties — recommend tweaking the income tax structure to raise revenue.

"It's the same trickle down economics, and all we get is crumbs because it's not working," Evangelos said of the budget proposal, adding the loss of revenue from the sales and income taxes proves it.

According to Evangelos, LePage said he would veto anything that came to his desk that would raise revenue.

Evangelos said Chipman then suggested that the lodging and tourist taxes are the lowest in New England, potentially an area that could be targeted to raise revenue to offset property tax costs. LePage countered that it would impact competitiveness.

When Evangelos asked LePage why he was proposing the tax shift, he said LePage responded by saying the state's school systems are a disaster and called superintendents "liars and double-dippers."

"He has declared war on our schools," Evangelos said.

Evangelos said LePage told him that he wanted one superintendent for each county, modeled after Florida, using the burden on local property taxpayers to force the consolidation.

Evangelos pointed out that Sawin Millet, a retired superintendent, now works for the LePage administration as the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. "The irony is not lost on the people that somebody in your own cabinet is a 'double-dipper'," he said.

LePage "went ballistic again" according to Evangelos, and told the three legislators, "I'll fire him [Millett] right now."

"He's a smart guy [Millett] and I wasn't criticizing him, just pointing out the inconsistency," Evangelos said.

"He [LePage] is trying to rile up property taxpayers to turn against their towns and schools — end-game number one — and  to develop a movement to consolidate superintendents," said Evangelos.

According to Evangelos, LePage then began to count off Maine as last in education, business-friendly climate, and labeling Maine kids and workers as "not smart." LePage added that when Puerto Rico becomes a state, Maine will fall behind even more.

Evangelos said he told the governor he was there to represent his communities and that what he was saying about Maine's position as an inferior state was untrue. "We may not be perfect, but we're not in last place," he said.

Brooks said he is proud of his district — SAD 22 — because of their comparatively low drop-out rate, a strong technical school and higher education placement statistics.

Brooks said LePage called them "idiots" and "ignorant" — which was offensive to the legislators, adding that the governor used terms loosely.

Despite the meeting, scheduled to introduce the legislators to the governor, no common ground was reached.

LePage said he would veto any changes to the budget, even as some are coming from  Republicans, including a tax hike on earners making $250,000 or more.

"This budget is a political document, not a financial document," Evangelos said. " He is spoiling for a fight."

Brooks said he did not see cooperation and a willingness to be patient and work through the budget to find solutions from the governor. "It was a significant meeting, and such a horrible tone for where we are going in an effort to solve problems," he said.

Kathleen Newman, LePage's deputy chief of staff, could not be reached for comment.

Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (26)
Posted by: Lorry Burpee | Jan 31, 2013 14:45

So the gang of three Progressive/Independents descend upon the Governor, and call his plans regressive, and harmful. Meanwhile their districts spend like nobody's business, expecting the State to suck up the pitfall of their bad investments. 
Which way do you want it? Do you want State Taxes to go up to cover local spending, welfare, numerous unnecessary social programs, etc. etc.? Or do you want to have control of your local taxes in your hands?

LePage's plan shifts the costs of City Police, City Firefighters, City Water, City Sewage, and City Roads into the hands of the City's that own those things. It's blasphemy to think that you have to pay for your own stuff in the minds of Progressive's. You can't wrench money out of the pockets of people in Houlton, and stuff it into the coffers of the City of Belfast! It's not ethical!

Once this budget is in place, taxes will go up. But, instead of having to pitch at tent outside of Augusta's Capital Building, you can march down to your City Hall, waggle your finger in your Councilor's face, and get your tax dollars back. Fancy that.

LePage, the Evil Man who put the Power of Spending back in the hands of the people Paying the Tab.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jan 25, 2013 12:34

I just know that the economy here in Maine is the worst it's ever been, I don't see it getting any better anytime in the future.  Lepage is our leader and should act like it.  Plainly put!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 25, 2013 07:57

We have the largest percentage of retirees in the country. I am one of them who has lived in the same home for over 40 years and wonder if I will be able to pay my taxes. Passionate is one thing; compassionate is another. Something has to give is right, but it isn't continuing to cut those with the least ability to help themselves. :(



Posted by: Catherine Cooper | Jan 24, 2013 23:08

Maine is one of 11 states where more of the population is a taker, on disability,, unemployed, not working for whatever reason or retired. 49% working and 51% not. How long can that continue? It can't Something has to give! Governor LePage is human and passionate about saving the state's economy. When your household can't afford something, you have to cut back and do without. The reality is Maine has to tighten the 'household budget' and spend just shy of what they make.



Posted by: Catherine Cooper | Jan 24, 2013 23:04

Harolyn M York needs to show the police report that states"this took place after several thousands of households in his district received fliers from a  PAC with explosives being detonated under a picture of Jeff's face. This was upsetting, to say the least, and the Maine State Police felt it bordered on a hate crime." And Bob Carter is the type of candidate and gentleman who would say if someone attempted to shake his hand and he did tell us the Jeff in all his campaign did attempt to run a clean campaign. Give me the proof of explosive fliers and or any police reports of wrong and criminal activities on any Republican candidates and I will personally investigate all wrong doings and publicize those findings. I am sure Democrats would do exactly the same for us Republicans.



Posted by: Melvin J. Box | Jan 24, 2013 13:29

Call it a meeting if you wish. Sounds more like an ambush to me. These three can call themselves independents all they want. They didn't go in to have an open discussion, they went in to push the Democratic agenda.



Posted by: Harolyn M York | Jan 24, 2013 12:00

In response to Ms. Cooper. I was with Jeff Evangelos when he walked into the Republican headquarters to see what kind of fliers, if any, were being distributed against him. This took place after several thousands of households in his district received fliers from a  PAC with explosives being detonated under a picture of Jeff's face. This was upsetting, to say the least, and the Maine State Police felt it bordered on a hate crime. That kind of campaigning crosses many lines and cannot be compared to what LePage did. As for your allegation of Jeff not shaking hands with Bob Carter at a debate, that is pure fabrication. I, too, was at the debate and Jeff did, indeed, shake the hand of his opponent. That has been one point making the rounds that has no merit and is false. Bob Carter was also quoted in the media saying that Jeff had run a clean campaign.



Posted by: Catherine Cooper | Jan 24, 2013 07:19

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos.doesn't have much room to talk when it comes to getting worked up about an issue. During his run for representative Evangelos came into the Knox County Republican headquarters in a heated lather over a mailing sent out by a super pac, an independent organization that didn't paint him in the best light. During a debate with Bob Carter, his Republican opponent, Evangelos wouldn't shake hands or even acknowledge Bob Carter as mature adults do. Governor LePage has some tough choices to make. In the real world, not the dreamy 'we can have our cake and eat it too', cuts are going to have to happen. The fiscally responsible know we are in dire straits, a state of extreme financial distress.Maine is one of 11 states where more of the population is a taker, on disability,, unemployed, not working for whatever reason or retired. 49% working and 51% not. How long can that continue? It can't Something has to give! Governor LePage is human and passionate about saving the state's economy. When your household can't afford something, you have to cut back and do without. The reality is Maine has to also.




Posted by: Virgil Fowles Jr | Jan 24, 2013 05:14

And we are trying to teach kids that bullying is BAD...is this also part of his education plan for our children.

Virgil Fowles



Posted by: Win Hood | Jan 23, 2013 06:00

My guess is  he will be back at Mardens- where you got him- soon enough.



Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 22, 2013 14:16

Ah, our Governor Le Rage explodes, again and again. His "bombs" have exported his reputation well beyond our state's borders.



Posted by: Catherine L Leonard | Jan 22, 2013 12:33

" Idiots, Ignorant, Liars and Not smart". Come on tell us what you really feel! I have see governors come and go but I do not remember any of them that was ever this crass and rude. Maybe he needs a reminder that he represents the people. I have not always agreed with who was governing but I don't believe I was ever called names by any of them. There is no excuse for Governor LePage's attitude or remarks. I too am proud of my local legislators and very ashamed of the Governor. The people of Maine deserve better respect than this from an elected official!



Posted by: Owen Bundy | Jan 22, 2013 10:16

When Jeff Evangelos came to our house looking for our vote he told me he would do everything in his power to improve our government.  He said he  cared about this district and would look after it.  So my family voted for him and he has kept his word, which is rare for a politician.  He has brought back to government what has been missing - a caring and honest perspective.  We as a family are so proud that we put our votes behind him.



Posted by: wayne curtis | Jan 22, 2013 09:05

Nice role model for our younger generation.



Posted by: John Snow | Jan 22, 2013 08:24

There are many different leadership styles.  Unfortunately, anger and intimidation can be effective when you run a business.  I hope our experience here with Mr LePage will finally get us past our blind assumption that success in business necessarily means someone is qualified for a political office.  A CEO can demand, and achieve, a balanced budget--a Governor cannot. The required skill sets are entirely different.  The Right is totally dismissive of Obama's experience as a community organizer--they hold it up for ridicule, yet it speaks volumes about inter-personal skills, even if you don't agree with him.  LePage has become the poster child for the frustrated corporatist that discovers the system doesn't bend to his will.



Posted by: Andrew C. Martin | Jan 21, 2013 20:26

We made the right decision electing Jeff Evangelos. Thank you for not being intimidated by a bully or backing down. Thank you for supporting and representing us!

 



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jan 21, 2013 19:23

The Governor gave us a glimpse of his personality when he removed the mural, when first in office.  Everyone should know that you can't get anywhere when there is swearing and yelling during a conversation.  Governor Lepage acted irresponsibility and he owes the legislatures an apology.  His action's since in office have not shown that he is the person to represent our state.  Controlling his temper and anger has not been one of his strong points.  Seems that he is taking this state and flushing it right down the drain without care or willing to listen to his constituents on other ways of helping out Maine's people and the economy.  Scares me to death the way that we are headed.



Posted by: Ben Ellison | Jan 21, 2013 18:15

Roger, if you run for public office, you are a politician. It's only a dirty word if you think it is. Personally I admire anyone willing to try elected public service these days, even Gov. LePage. There are so many haters.

But let's not kid ourselves. Most successful businessmen could handle the stress of the governorship much better than LePage. Management by anger does not work very well. The guy seems to be coming apart. Who will be surprised if something worse doesn't happen, like a stint in rehab. He's not acting like a mature person.

 



Posted by: Darcie Crabtree | Jan 21, 2013 16:00

I guess you cant run government like you would run a business or household.You have to be a politician to get all the books to add up (when they need to) . When you make the difficult decisions there is always someone there to tell you you are wrong. This would give anyone a short fuse ,especially a business person, when talking about the financial responsibility for their business / state.        roger rowling



Posted by: M Jura | Jan 21, 2013 15:21

I think that they should create a list of the "Double-Dippers" and post exactly how much money the do make - current salary and retirement combined.  I think people would be outraged.  They say they can't find qualified individuals to replace the ones that have come back.  No wonder when there is so much stagnation at the top of the heap.



Posted by: Ben Ellison | Jan 21, 2013 15:16

Elliot Cutler might make a good governor, or so might Chellie Pingree. But if they both run then we could end up with a truly unrepresentative Gov like LePage again. Hopefully the Democratic leadership will be smarter this time. When Cutler surged ahead of Libby Mitchell just before the 2010 vote, I think Mitchell and her people should have acknowledged the situation and done the best thing for the state. I was so mad about I unenrolled from the Democratic Party!

 

http://www.wcsh6.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=134328



Posted by: Charles E. St.Clair | Jan 21, 2013 14:37

Elliott Cutler

nough said.



Posted by: Susan L Martin | Jan 21, 2013 14:10

Governor LePage is a disgrace to our state and is known to the entire country as the boor he truly is.  The search for a viable opposition candidate should begin yesterday and/or commence in earnest.  He simply cannot be allowed to occupy this place of honor in Maine once more.



Posted by: Jay A. Freedman | Jan 21, 2013 12:48

When we all experience the shame of placing LePage in office, let us not forget that party politics not vetting placed him there.



Posted by: Holly Ann Tracy | Jan 21, 2013 12:20

I am proud of my local legislators for making this attempt.   Ashamed of our governor for his ridiculous behavior and lack of skill at managing his emotions or the state budget.



Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 21, 2013 11:52

The Governor wants to borrow (bonds) for our great grandchildren to pay off in order to pay back the hospitals that DHHS failed, yes failed, to do. This game of withholding funding, not covering benefits for the elderly and so on will rip people apart and then comes the tax bill to scare everyone while the political games go on. Services have to be cut but with some sense of intelligence not just go after the most needy.



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