On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Governor Paul LePage gave his sixth and final State of the State speech in which he addressed his agenda, concerns, and the budget for Maine. In response to new state legislation LePage said, “Our economy and our way of life are under attack.”
LePage began the speech by addressing his plans for tax reform. Angered by the push by Democrats in the Maine state legislature to raise taxes on the wealthy, LePage asserted that his budget will reduce the income tax rate from 10.15 to 5.75 percent for all Mainers by the year 2020. His budget will also reduce the corporate income tax rate from 8.93 to 8.33 percent, expand the sales tax, and revoke the estate tax, also known as the “death” tax. His budget also aims to provide property tax relief by ensuring a Property Tax Fairness Credit of $400 for low-income elderly citizens.
In his speech, LePage stated firmly, “The law to raise the minimum wage will wreak havoc.” According to LePage, raising minimum wage will decrease the number of jobs available and prevent hard workers from earning raises. As stated in his speech, LePage wants to create “29-dollar-an-hour jobs” not “9-dollar-an-hour jobs.” He seemed especially concerned with the restaurant industry, arguing that menu prices will skyrocket and waiters will no longer receive tips. LePage also worries that due to the raise in minimum wage, younger workers will be unable to acquire jobs and the elderly will sink into poverty.
Following, LePage addressed his budget’s protection for the elderly and the disabled. “We have realigned the welfare system and the Medicaid program to prioritize the elderly and those with all forms of disabilities,” LePage stated. Currently, the elderly and disabled citizens of Maine comprise 40 percent of MaineCare under LePage’s budget. By the year 2019, LePage contends that this will increase to 45 percent. He stated that his budget will provide funding to help Mainers with increased costs of Medicare, increased funding for nursing homes, and a rejection of the growth of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The governor’s budget will also impact the opioid crisis that he said is “ravaging our state.” Heroin is now killing over seven Mainers a week and LePage stated that he wants to use law enforcement to reduce this number. Arguing that Democrats in the Maine state legislature have failed to see the power of law enforcement in addition to failing to fund the right treatment programs, LePage claimed that his budget will set aside $2.4 million to fund opioid-addiction treatment for uninsured Mainers.
Arguing that Democrats in the Maine state legislature “have forgotten our children,” LePage moved on to discuss his plan for education reform. “We do not need more money for education—we need more accountability in education,” he said. He stated that his plan is to cut funding for system administration, which encompasses superintendents, business managers, human resources directors, and other essential leadership positions. LePage said that he hopes his budget will make education funding more accountable and efficient by directing funds to teachers and students with the implementation of a statewide teacher contract that increases the salary for teachers and reduces the costs of higher education.
Lastly, LePage addressed his anger with the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to provide incentives for users of solar energy. He argued that this decision takes money from the poor and gives it to the wealthy when we should be providing affordable energy options.