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Weekend Confrontation in Legislature Prompts Response From Governor
05/20/2013   Reported By: Susan Sharon

One day after being denied a chance to address members of the Appropriations Committee about a $35 million budget shortfall in the Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Paul LePage said he doesn't feel he was personally mistreated, but he said the office of governor was. Speaking with reporters this afternoon, LePage said he only came before the committee to clarify a few issues, and offer to work with its members.

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As members of the Appropriations Committee wrapped up an emergency meeting that lasted more than an hour and featured both DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett on the hot seat, Gov. LePage approached the microphone and asked the Democratic Senate chair, Dawn Hill, if he could make a statement. Hill responded that she and the committee had just forged a way to solve the budget problem with the help of the commissioners and wanted to end the meeting on a positive note.

"And I mean no disrespect to you but I know there's a lot of politics at play as well," said Rep. Hill.

Gov. LePage (interrupting) said, "No, I'm a pragmatic person, I do not play politics. If you..."

Sen. Dawn Hill (interrupting) said, "I wasn't suggesting. Sir, I wasn't suggesting you - what I am just saying is, I think there are a lot of politics at play around this committee and I think what happened here today was good and ended on a very good note and I would just ask if you would allow us to end it there. And again, no disrespect to you and no disrespect to my committee."

LePage then asked Hill if the governor of the state of Maine was not welcome to address the Appropriations Committee. Hill said that was not the case. Instead, she suggested they could meet sometime outside the Appropriations Committee. The governor declined, but not before saying one more thing:

"I want to get on the record and this committee is not allowing it and it's unfortunate, but the people of the state of Maine are being played for patsies, thank you," said LePage.

The governor's appearance before the Appropriations Committee had Democrats such as Assistant Senate Leader Troy Jackson suggesting that LePage was trying to throw gasoline on a fire.

"Calling people of the state of Maine "patsies" is just par for the course again with him," said Jackson. "He doesn't seem to get under his dictatorship that people don't want the style of management."

Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau released a statement saying he was "highly offended" by the committee's treatment of the governor. Asked about it at a press briefing on Monday afternoon, the governor said he all he wanted to do was answer a question that was asked of Finance Commissioner Millett and to compliment Mary Mayhew.

"Commissioner Mayhew, in my eyes, has done a phenomenal job as the commissioner of Department of Health and Humans Services," said LePage. "She works 80, 90 hours a week. She goes up to Appropriations and she gets beat up all the time."

LePage said he does not think he was personally disrespected by the Appropriations Committee but he said the office of the governor was.

"If I want to be liked, I go get another dog," said LePage. "I think the office of governor, I do believe the office of governor was totally disrespected, and whether I'm holding it, or John Baldacci is holding it, or Angus King is holding it, or some future governor, it was inappropriate."

While unusual for a governor to personally appear before a legislative committee, it does happen on occasion. Gov. LePage did it last year when he made a pitch to the Appropriations Committee for passage of a supplemental budget. One difference at the time is that Republicans were in control.

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