Gubernatorial Candidate Profile: Paul LePage



Lepages’s Focus: Smaller Government

 

LePages’s Focus: Smaller Government

Shrinking state government and reducing health care costs are priorities for Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage.

Paul LePage, Republican
Paul LePage, Republican
“Maine’s going to have to go on a diet,” said LePage. “It’s that simple. We spend more than we take in.”

“We need to take a look at every single entity,” evaluating and determining where cuts can be made, LePage said. “We’re already starting because you can’t wait ’til January.”

LePage said at the end of June, the state reported a surplus. Yet the state still owed between $360 million and $400 million to Maine hospitals “and we never acknowledged it.”

The issues facing the next governor include a $1 billion budget shortfall, a $4.4 billion retirement system shortfall, “enormously high energy and health care costs,” a regulatory system gone “amuck” and a bloated government, LePage said.

The Lewiston native would start with overhauling the regulatory system to make Maine a pro-business state.

He plans to audit every regulation on the books, removing those that are antiquated and “should have gone by the wayside.”

LePage also plans to streamline state government so that it’s easier to get the necessary business permits.

He wants to institute a system similar to the state of Florida in which an automatic approval is issued after a 90-day review session if no objections have been declared.

“If you lower spending, your taxes will go down,” said LePage. “If you streamline regulations, you’ll get more people interested in starting business.”

As far as health care costs, LePage said the state needs to enact a number of measures including work on mandates, allowing people to shop for policies out of state and reining in the tort laws so doctors aren’t forced to practice defensive medicine.

Maine needs to get health care costs down so that people can afford it, he said.

“Get health care under control, we become a pro-business state and we get more people interested in investing in Maine,” LePage said.

The state also needs to look at MaineCare.

“Right now we have 29 percent of Mainers getting some form of state assistance,” LePage said. “We need to see what we can do to try to improve that.”

“We intend to reform welfare,” said LePage. “Welfare should be treated as an emergency or a stumbling block or a bump in the road, not a final destination.

“We want a tiered system so people aren’t caught for the rest of their lives.”

LePage said a person earning $18,000 qualifies for all kinds of assistance, but at $19,000, all the help goes away.

By creating a tiered system, as people earn more, the state can take a little help so when they reach the point of earning a living wage, they’re on their own, LePage said.

Handling the problem of the $4.4 billion retirement system shortfall is going to take time, LePage said.

“Right now I have two people working on it and looking at actuary tables,” he said. “

“The state has a responsibility to honor its commitments to its workers,” LePage said. “Having said that, the current system we’re on is unsustainable. New hires at the state are going to have to work on a different system.”

LePage also has ideas for education.

“We are looking very hard at what they’re doing in North Carolina,” LePage said. “They give students an option of a four-year high school diploma or a five year associate degree.

LePage said the plan isn’t fully developed yet, but it would raise high school standards and keep students home for another year, not requiring them to pay room and board when they attend college or technical school.

“For the kids who are dropouts, we have a plan for them as well,” said LePage. “Instead of leaving the money [for those students] in the school district, we’re going to attack the whole issue of high school dropouts and getting these students trained for earning money.”

LePage is the operations manager for the Marden’s chain of surplus and salvage stores. He has been with the company since 1996. He is also mayor of Waterville.

He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Husson University and an MBA from the University of Maine.

“I think we have to live within our means, we have to pay our bills and we have to create jobs,” LePage said. “That’s really the bottom line of what we stand for in this campaign.”

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