2017-01-11 / State/Regional

LePage rallies Republican legislators regarding budget

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday called upon fellow Republicans in the Maine legislature to "fix bayonets" and battle with him for his final two-year budget proposal.

The governor made his first remarks about the budget he submitted last week during his weekly radio broadcast in Bangor. He called on Republicans to support his efforts to broaden the sales tax, dial back income and corporate taxes, eliminate the estate tax, tighten health care coverage for low-income Mainers, and overhaul education.

LePage said he's going to ask Maine Republican lawmakers "for once in their lives" to unite against Democrats to get his budget passed. Republicans control the Senate; the House has a Democrat majority.

"Please fix bayonets and let's get the battle. Because we can win this. The Maine people want it. It's just that we don't show strength in the legislature, we always cave," LePage said.

The governor said he doesn't have to be bound by a June deadline for passing the budget, despite a contrary opinion from Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills. He said the state could run on a continuing resolution like the federal government.

He said he'll hit the road to convince Mainers to demand that their representatives pass his budget. He said his proposals to cut state welfare programs will help the state avoid federal fines — Maine, like other states, has not met some federal work requirements for welfare recipients.

The governor expects his education ideas to be the touchiest subject during budget negotiations, and said that a statewide teacher contract will help retain teachers in rural areas.

His budget proposes reducing the state workforce by 500 positions, and LePage on Tuesday said that they include jobs that have been vacant for over a year.

"If you can operate a state for a whole year without filling a positon, then maybe you don't need the position," he said.

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