LePage blasts Paul Ryan, GOP health plan in Breitbart interview

Gov. Paul LePage continued his string of national media appearances Friday by granting an interview to a reporter from Breitbart News in which he took shots at Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan for refusing to meet with him.

LePage has spent considerable time during the past few weeks in Washington, D.C. Between visits with White House officials and attendance at conferences, LePage has upped his profile as a national voice for staunchly conservative positions, appearing on Fox News and Laura Ingraham’s radio show.

The interview with Breitbart News, the hard-right media organization formerly run by Steve Bannon, a close adviser to President Donald Trump, further establishes LePage’s profile as a voice for dogged adherence to conservative principles and against political compromise.

The stated mission of his most recent trip, which started Thursday, was to advocate for changes to the plan Republicans are currently pushing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. LePage has put himself in the middle of the debate as a governor from a state that didn’t expand Medicaid with enhanced federal funding and someone who is calling for an immediate freeze on the program’s expansion. LePage is also calling for a federal work requirement for any non-disabled adult in the Medicaid program.

LePage told Breitbart that the chief purpose of his latest trip to Washington was to meet with Ryan about the Republicans’ health care plan. Ryan did not agree to LePage’s request for a meeting, which irked the governor.

“I’m from Maine; we don’t have very many votes,” LePage quipped to Breitbart.

Ryan’s office also did not respond to a Sunday request from the Bangor Daily News for comment on LePage’s criticism.

LePage’s lobbying trip comes as the Republican Governors Association — with key backing from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whom LePage once praised as a true conservative — has signaled support of the bill that is now being dubbed RyanCare by a lot of people, not including LePage. He has called it RINOcare (as in the political-wedge-driving acronym Republican in Name Only).

Breitbart related LePage’s story about growing up in an impoverished household, which is familiar to those of us here in Maine but might be new for readers nationally.

“Most lawmakers on Capitol Hill have never been poor, so they do not understand the dynamics of poverty,” said LePage. “Throwing entitlements at them is just a way of keeping them in poverty.”

Like his origin story, this argument by the governor is also familiar in Maine, though not everyone agrees with it. In a rural state challenged by a dearth of jobs in some areas, and where the population is collectively older than any other state, social service advocates counter that this is the time and place for the government to expand its safety net.

As Maine goes, so goes the nation? With the Medicaid debate raging both here and in Washington, we’ll know soon enough. — Christopher Cousins

Report prompts lawmakers to call tax credit ‘scam’ and ‘success’

A report released Friday by the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability was a deep dive into the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program, which has given $76 million in tax credits on investments from businesses in low-income areas to 10 projects since 2013.

The most famous project was the shuttered Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket, where a 2015 Portland Press Herald investigation found the state was on the hook to give $16 million to investors after the mill closed through a loophole in the program.

But Friday’s report found that the program has prompted $3.39 in business spending for every $1 in tax credits, although that declined to $1.19 when limited to in-state spending. It credited the program for creating and retaining 764 jobs at a total one-time cost of $99,179 per job.

However, it noted that there “are no legislative or agency expectations set for cost-effectiveness of the program, so we are unable to assess the extent to which results on the cost-effectiveness measures meet expectations.”

Lawmakers had different takeaways: Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, called the program “a scam” that allows Mainers to continue to pay for jobs shipped out, while Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, told the Press Herald that “some fine-tuning” must be done, but called it “a success.” — Michael Shepherd

Quick hit

  • The members of a legislative task force were named last week. The Task Force to Address the Opiate Crisis in the State, which is tasked with making recommendations to the Legislature on that topic, will be chaired by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Newport, and Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell. Members of the public, medical and law enforcement communities are also on the panel, including Dr. Vernon Gardner of Hampden, Ross Hicks, a person in recovery from Brunswick, Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton and Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association. — Michael Shepherd

Today in A-town

The House and Senate are on recess until Tuesday but many committees will meet at the State House today for hearings on dozens of bills. Here are a few highlights:

  • The Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee will take comments on a bill that would provide grants to help law enforcement agencies acquire more drug-detecting dogs.
  • The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will consider two bills that would make adjustments to Maine’s school funding formula. We’re guessing that with Gov. Paul LePage proposing in his biennial budget to replace the school funding formula over the next couple of years that disposition of those bills will wait until later in the session.
  • In the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, alcohol will be on their minds, but presumably not on their breaths as the committee considers six bills that have to do with the distribution of beer, wine and liquor. Over in the Criminal Justice Committee there’s a related bill up for discussion, An Act to Curb Drunk Driving by Prohibiting a Person Convicted of Operating Under the Influence from Purchasing Alcohol.
  • The Marine Resources Committee is focused predominantly on shellfish harvesting laws (here’s their soundtrack).
  • Over at the Blaine House, there will be some very confused maple trees. LePage is scheduled for the annual tradition of tapping a tree on the governor’s mansion grounds to kick off sugaring season. With the stretch of warm weather we’ve just had it’s understandable that sap operations are starting to pop up, but the as-cold-as-possible weekend must have stemmed the flow. Meh, it will be spring soon enough. We just have this blizzard to deal with tomorrow. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Helpful and not-so-helpful flooding advice

The Maine Emergency Management Agency, as we’ve noted before in the Daily Brief, sends out helpful reminders every day to keep you safe. Today’s is headlined “Ivory Soap floats, and so can your car.”

I was wondering where MEMA was headed with that, imaging them advising us to pack the fender wells and underbellies of our cars with soap and how sudsy that’d make the roads in a rainstorm. I was also thinking how Irish Spring smells better.

But no, it was in the spirit of making a pun: “As little as 2 feet of water will float most cars and cause them to be WASHED OFF the roadway.”

I get it now. At the end of the email was the real message MEMA is trying to communicate, which rolls off the tongue and comes to the point immediately. There are two crucial elements of a public safety slogan (Remember “users are losers”? Of course you do.). If you take anything from today’s Daily Brief, let it be this: “Turn around, don’t drown!”

However, if you try the Ivory Soap thing, send us photos. Here’s today’s flooding soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.