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Maine governor to union: ‘You are lying’

May 13, 2013

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage accused the Maine State Employees Association on Monday of lying to try to scare people with talk of a possible government shutdown.

The union representing state workers warned in a May 6 letter that agencies were directed to prepare plans “for an inevitable shutdown.”

The blunt-speaking Republican governor told the union’s chief counsel, Tim Belcher, during a meeting at the Cross Office Building, “You are lying.”

Afterward, Belcher confirmed the governor’s account, describing LePage as “belligerent, accusatory and threatening.”

“I’m not going to get into the gutter with the guy and exchange insults,” Belcher said. “The important thing is that thousands of Mainers are worrying about a state shutdown. They’re not worried because we raised the issue. They’re worried about a governor who refuses to negotiate.”

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett, who witnessed the discussion, said the governor didn’t cross the line in his remarks, saying he wasn’t belligerent or threatening.

The MSEA attempted to invoke a statutory requirement that the administration meet with union leaders within 10 days to bargain the terms of a shutdown, which could occur if the Legislature and LePage fail to enact a two-year state budget by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1

The governor proposed a $6.3 billion budget in January. The budget remains stalled in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

LePage insisted that the executive branch has not issued any secret warning to state agencies about a possible shutdown. Belcher insisted afterward that the union had received a “credible” report that state agencies were warned about a possible shutdown, though he accepted the governor’s statement that his administration didn’t issue any warnings.

LePage said the union should talk to lawmakers who’ve declined to bring his budget to the floor. “If the legislature chooses not to pass my budget, then you folks need to sit down with them and get a plan together,” he said.

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