Gov. Paul Lepage was in Orono on Wednesday, April 6 for a town-hall-style meeting. The governor mentioned four main topics during this meeting; taxes, student debt, welfare reform and lowering Maine’s energy costs.
LePage’s dialogue about energy costs took a somber turn when he mentioned that a company in southern Maine was going to lose a number of jobs.
“There’s a big company that hasn’t come out yet, I happen to know about it and I’m sworn to secrecy until they make a public announcement, but we’re talking 900 jobs,” LePage said. “In the most prosperous part of our state — down south.”
LePage has mentioned in the past that energy costs have been holding Maine’s most popular industry back. In September 2015, when Old Town’s pulp mills closed, he referenced that Maine energy costs were to blame for industry leaving the state, and this was no different.
“Again, it’s about energy costs for that company,” he said. “The biggest single issue is they’re competing against Chinese nuclear power, and they’re in Maine with the No. 12 energy costs in America.”
LePage also spoke on the opioid “epidemic” in Maine. He discussed a bill that makes carrying heroin and fentanyl a felony.
“[The bill] gives us the ability meaning the courts, the DA’s and law enforcement the ability to make a person make a decision. Do you want to be a convicted felon or do you want to clean yourself up and live?” LePage said.
College Republican Lee Jackson said these sort of town hall meetings should be attended by both sides of the political spectrum.
While Orono’s Democratic representative Ryan Tipping-Spitz told WSCH 6 that LePage was “passing the buck” on issues raised by the audience.
“People were asking questions about people freezing to death in their own homes, not being able to get the help they need to stay in their houses, he went off on other topics,” Tipping-Spitz said. “It was a little frustrating but I’m glad he got a chance to hear what people are saying in Orono.”
Jackson refuted Tipping-Spitz’ claims, saying that the governor was misunderstood when he answered the questions posed by the residents of Orono.
“I didn’t see things that way and I think the governor answered all the questions he was asked,” Jackson said. “I think in answering things this way it appeared as if he was passing responsibility off to other people, but in fact was explaining the complexity of passing state legislation.”
“I have always been a big fan of town hall meetings. It’s a chance to see your elected officials up close and ask them important questions that have a direct impact on your life,” Jackson said. “One of the biggest faults in our current society is that voters don’t want to listen to points of view they disagree with.”
LePage will hold his next town meeting on April 14 in Newcastle.