LePage defends welfare efforts, blasts Democrats
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage pledged Saturday to continue working to overhaul the state’s welfare programs while ensuring a strong safety net for Maine’s disabled, elderly and children.
The governor used his speech at the state party convention to highlight his accomplishments since being elected in 2010 and to blast Democratic lawmakers and his political opponents in November’s election.
LePage criticized the Democratic-led Legislature for blocking his welfare efforts, such as a proposal limit the use of electronic benefit transfer cards for certain purchases.
He said the argument that he’s “waging a war on the poor” has no merit until his critics have walked in his shoes, alluding to the time he spent homeless as a child.
“The people on welfare deserve to feel and live the American dream,” he said as the convention wrapped up Saturday. “The best way out of generational poverty is a good education and a good job.”
LePage touted his administration’s ability to pay the state’s hospitals a nearly $500 million debt, enact the largest tax cut in state history and block several efforts from Democrats to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.
Meanwhile, Democrats characterized LePage as an obstructionist whose heavy use of his veto pen is halting good policy.
“At a time when Maine ranks among the worst for job growth, the governor stood in the way of policies that would make health care more affordable, raise the minimum wage, lower energy costs and help put more money in the pockets of Maine families,” House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick said in a statement.
LePage also took shots at his opponents for governor, Democratic candidate Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, saying they want to “return to the liberal policies of the past.”
“I want to continue creating jobs, reforming welfare, fixing our broken budgets and getting drug traffickers off the streets,” he said. “That’s moving away from the status quo and into the future.”