Gov. Paul LePage held a town hall meeting June 17 where he answered questions on methadone clinics, MaineCare, education and the budget. The event at Camden Hills Regional High School was part of Capitol for a Day where LePage toured the Midcoast.

For the governor and some Cabinet members, it was a day to see Knox County — from the windjammers in Camden Harbor to the cement plant in Thomaston.

For his supporters and observers, it was an opportunity to ask the governor about his first six months in office, and applaud his conservative positions.

For those who disagree with LePage’s policies — from removing the mural to changes to the state employee pension system — it was a chance to register their opposition through signs that said “Maine is not Mardens, we are not for sale” and “61 percent of Maine opposes your agenda.” They wore stickers that said “61%” to note the number of people who did not vote for the Republican governor in the 2010 election. Inside the forum, some of those political opponents booed and shouted “Shame on you!” or “Try harder!”

LePage was asked what the state can do to prevent methadone clinics from becoming big business in Maine. He said his administration is looking at a plan to get people off the drug.

“Methadone clinics are not one of my favorites,” LePage said. “The reason they are not one of my favorites, it’s not because they provide methadone to people who need it, the problem is that it’s a maintenance program and there’s no clinical basis for the clinic. In other words, there’s no treatment beyond what you get on.”

LePage was asked if it is discrimination to deny MaineCare benefits for legal non-citizens, a policy that is part of the biennial budget.

“We have so many dollars, and I’m going to concentrate on Maine people,” LePage said. “There are billions of people in the world and we can’t feed them all out of Maine.”

The questioner prodded the governor, and noted the legacy of ethnic groups and immigrants in the United States.

“My answer stands: I will feed Maine people before I feed foreigners,” LePage said.

LePage was asked about the regulations he supports. He cited the federal herring quota that was cut in half, and called it wrong. “It was not done on science. It was not done on research. It was just done,” LePage said.

The governor was asked about regulations at boatyards, including pressure washing the bottom of boats. He said his administration will examine regulations this summer, when the budget is done. “Each department, each agency is going to be looking at state regs and federal regs,” LePage said.

On transportation, LePage was asked about support for rail and buses. He said there would be continued support for rail infrastructure. Buses, LePage said, are a matter of population density and money, as well as the independence of Mainers.

“Raise taxes!” someone in the audience shouted.

LePage said Maine’s tax rate, coupled with the per capita income and age of population, was already too burdensome. “Sir, that’s not the answer,” LePage said.

LePage was asked what is being done to enforce orders for child support. Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said there needs to be more support for the child support enforcement agency.

LePage said the Legislature needs representatives and senators that support tougher laws.

LePage said: “In the state of Maine in the last two weeks, we have two children in the morgue. We have two mothers in the morgue. And we have two fathers who blew their brains out. The problem with the state of Maine is that laws are too lenient on families that break up. They’re too lenient on deadbeat dads and we are working … and I’ve tried to make some changes and the Legislature didn’t want to make them.”

On education, the governor said he was for “as much choice as possible.” He said his administration will also work on education this summer and fall, and propose legislation in January. He said quality and cost should be the focus. He said teachers should be rewarded for good performance, rather than pay based on seniority. “Until we come to grips with that, we’re going to deal with what we have,” LePage said.

LePage was asked how Maine will attract and support educators if the state cuts teachers’ salaries and benefits, and diminishes their union rights and retirement security. LePage said he disagreed with the premise of the question.

“I believe very strongly that you find the highest quality teacher and you pay him the highest salary you could possibly pay,” LePage said. “Because if you get performance in the classroom, you get a better student, you get a better citizen and you have a better society. It’s not about lowering benefits. It’s not about lowering salaries. It’s about pay for performance. It’s about getting the best and paying the best. Do not pay for mediocrity.”

On energy, the governor said he wanted to see more natural gas used in the state. Several in the audience shouted “Conservation!” He said insulation and energy efficiency would not solve the problem of the state’s reliance on foreign oil.

The governor was asked what he would do to protect the state’s quality of place, as well as its reputation. LePage said two factors are air quality (pollutants blown west from coal-fired power plants, causing pulmonary disease) and income level (“We are some of the poorest people in the country,” LePage said.). LePage said Massachusetts was ranked first in quality of life.

“If our per capita income was closer to the national average, which is well into the 40s, and if we could find a solution to the air that we breathe, then we could be number one,” LePage said.

On pension reforms, LePage said benefits will not go down. He said cost of living adjustments would be frozen for three years for all state employees. He said future COLAs would be capped at 3 percent, versus 4 percent. The COLAs would only apply to the first $20,000 of pension income. He said mistakes were made about investment returns and how long people would live. Later, he said unions also contributed to the problem.

“Like many unions, like the United Auto Workers, they nearly bankrupted the companies because of demands, demands, demands,” LePage said.

Someone in the audience shouted: “That’s not the case in Maine.”

LePage said education decisions should be made by students and parents, not union bosses in Washington, D.C.

LePage Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett moderated the town hall meeting. Joining LePage were Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services; George Gervais, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development; State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin; David Bernhardt, commissioner of the Department of Transportation; Pattie Aho, acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection; and Norman H. Olsen, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources.