Paul Richard LePage (born October 9, 1948) is an American businessman and politician who has been the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. A Republican, he was previously mayor of Waterville from 2003 to 2011, and was a city councilor before that. He worked from 1996 to 2011 in the private sector as general manager of the 14-store discount chain Marden's Surplus and Salvage.
Early life and education
LePage was born in Lewiston, Maine, the eldest son of eighteen children of Theresa B. (née Gagnon) and Gerard A. LePage, both of whom were of French-Canadian descent.
He grew up speaking French in an impoverished home with an abusive father who was a mill worker. His father drank heavily and terrorized the children; and his mother, though a loving parent, was too intimidated to stop him. At age eleven, after his father beat him and broke his nose, he ran away from home and lived on the streets of Lewiston, seeking shelter wherever he could find it, including in horse stables and at a "strip joint".
After spending roughly two years homeless, he began to earn a living shining shoes, washing dishes at a café and hauling boxes for a truck driver. He later worked at a rubber company, a meat-packing plant, and was a short order cook, and bartender.
LePage applied to Husson College in Bangor, but was initially rejected due to a poor verbal score on the SAT, a result of English being his second language. LePage has said that Peter Snowe – the first husband of current U.S. Senator from Maine Olympia Snowe – persuaded Husson to give LePage a written exam in French, which allowed LePage to show his comprehension and be admitted.
At Husson, LePage improved his English skills and became editor of the college newspaper. He graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration in Finance and Accounting, and later earned a M.B.A. from the University of Maine.
LePage worked for a lumber company in New Brunswick, Canada, from 1972 to 1979, then Scott Paper in Winslow, Maine. A few years later, he founded his own business consulting firm, LePage & Kasevich Inc., specializing in aiding foundering companies. In 1996, LePage became general manager of Marden's Surplus and Salvage, a Maine-based discount store chain
LePage served two terms as a Waterville city councilor before becoming mayor in 2003, retaining that post until resigning in January 2011. During his time as mayor, LePage reorganized city hall, lowered taxes, and increased the city's rainy day fund balance from $1 million to $10 million.
2010 Maine Gubernatorial Campaign On September 22, 2009, LePage announced that he would be seeking the 2010 Republican nomination for Governor of Maine. LePage won 38% of the vote in a seven-way primary, despite being outspent ten to one by the closest challenger.
In the general election, LePage, who was backed by local Tea Party activists, faced off against Democrat state Senator Libby Mitchell, and independents Eliot Cutler, Shawn Moody, and Kevin Scott. With 94% of precincts reporting on the day after the election, the Bangor Daily News declared LePage the winner, carrying 38.1% of the votes. Cutler was in second place with 36.7% of the votes (fewer than 7,500 votes behind LePage), while Mitchell was a distant third with 19%. Moody and Scott had 5% and 1%, respectively.
LePage is the first popularly-elected Franco-American governor of Maine, and the first Republican since John R. McKernan, Jr., was re-elected in 1990. In his victory speech, LePage promised he would shrink government, lower taxes, decrease business regulation, and put "Maine people ahead of politics."
Positions on specific issues
LePage has said that the permitting process to start a business in Maine is too cumbersome and expensive and he will look for ways to make it cheaper and easier.
LePage opposes raising any taxes during his term as governor and supports the creation of a 5% flat tax on all households earning more than $30,000. During the gubernatorial campaign, he also wanted to reduce the auto registration tax by 20% and use the actual sale price rather than MSRP as the tax basis.
LePage supports a school voucher system and structuring pay to reward teachers for performance. He has stated that curriculum should be determined by local school boards, but that he does not object to teaching creationism in public schools.
Energy and environment LePage supports not only the development of hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, and tidal power within Maine, but also tax incentives for energy conservation initiatives. He has said he would support shallow-water offshore drilling in Maine waters, but not deep-water drilling, which he considers more hazardous. He believes that government policies should consider the effect of greenhouse gases, but opposes regulation, saying he is not convinced that greenhouse gases from human activities are a significant contributor to climate change.
He has stated that some requirements for environmental impact studies should be reduced or weakened because they frequently impose undue burden on economic activity
In February 2011, LePage drew criticism from environmentalists when he proposed zoning 10 million acres (40,000 km2) of northern Maine for development, repealing laws that require manufacturers to take back recyclable goods for disposal, and other sweeping changes to environmental laws. In a statement LePage said, "Job creation and investment opportunities are being lost because we do not have a fair balance between our economic interests and the need to protect the environment."
Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Maine Natural Resources Council — one of the state's largest and oldest environmental advocacy groups — replied to his proposed changes saying, "We are shocked and stunned." Maureen Drouin, executive director of the Maine Conservation Voters Education Fund, said, "A dirty environment is no way to bring new jobs to Maine."
LePage expressed an intent to reform welfare eligibility requirements, though he did not specify how he would do so. He also supports lifetime limits on welfare support, requiring recipients to perform work in the community, and a tiered payment system that gradually removes benefits as recipients earn more money working, rather than cutting them off entirely at a certain income level. He has stated that the size of state government is likely too large and that he would probably seek to reduce the number of state employees.
He has called for repeal of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying he believes it is unconstitutional, and — as planned — has encouraged Maine's attorney general to join the federal lawsuit by other state attorneys general challenging the bill. He has said that coverage mandates for Maine insurance policies should be pared back because they make insurance policies too expensive. He believes that MaineCare, the state Medicaid program, has too many enrollees and is too easy to qualify for.
LePage opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry; however, in a 2009 interview with right-of-center Maine political blog Pine Tree Politics, he voiced support for civil unions, saying, "if you're going to get married by the State, it's a civil union, period. Whether you're a homosexual, lesbian, heterosexual. Everybody. That way everybody gets the same legal standing."
On the topic of transgender students in grades K-12, he said he did not understand "how people, at least sane people, would want to allow transgender in our primary schools and our high schools." LePage then pledged to oppose legislation for transgendered students, saying, "I think it's gone too far and we have to push back. As governor, I would never allow that to be signed into law."
Governor of Maine
Renaming conference rooms and removing murals
On March 23, 2011, Governor LePage sparked protests when he announced that he planned to remove a large mural depicting the history of the state's labor movement from the lobby of the Maine Department of Labor offices. LePage said that he had received a written complaint signed by a "secret admirer", and "some complaints" from business owners.
The mural includes depictions of Rosie the Riveter at Bath Iron Works, a 1937 shoe worker’s strike, and a 1986 paper mill strike. The artist, Judy Taylor, stated, “There was never any intention to be pro-labor or anti-labor, it was a pure depiction of the facts.”LePage also announced that he plans to rename conference rooms that have carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member in American history. The Governor’s spokesman explained that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals".
Despite protests, on March 28 it was disclosed that the murals had been removed over the weekend. In a statement, LePage's press secretary said, "The mural has been removed and is in storage awaiting relocation to a more appropriate venue."
On March 30 the Portland Museum of Art issued a statement that said LePage's decision has tarnished the state's reputation as a haven for artists: "The historical role of Maine as muse and refuge for generations of Americans is called into question by this single action."
The Maine Curators' Forum, a consortium of curators and directors from museums, colleges and universities, art centers and galleries throughout the state, also issued a statement that called LePage's action a "direct affront to our values as arts professionals."
On April 1 it was disclosed that a federal lawsuit had been filed in U.S. District Court seeking "to confirm the mural's current location, ensure that the artwork is adequately preserved, and ultimately to restore it to the Department of Labor's lobby in Augusta".
In April 2011, LePage Cabinet member Philip Congdon was criticized for statements he made at a speaking engagement in Northern Maine. Congdon was quoted as saying affirmative action programs have contributed to a decline in higher education, that people of northern Maine were lacking in parenting skills, that Maine's potato farmers were wasting their potatoes by selling them for french fries rather than vodka and that it was time for them to "get off the reservation and get to work" if they wanted to succeed.
Congdon denied making some of the comments and said some were misunderstood. "I thought I was talking to people who were sufficiently intelligent enough to understand my real meaning. I was mistaken."
In a joint statement, the Maine branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Penobscot Indian Nation called Congdon's statements "reprehensible and inherently untrue". Upon hearing of Congdon's comments, LePage removed him from his cabinet stating, "I do not condone or tolerate the appearance of this type of behavior and I will not accept distractions from my jobs-creation agenda."
Welfare reform was a centerpiece of LePage's gubernatorial campaign. In December 2011, citing a budget shortfall, LePage proposed sweeping changes to MaineCare (Maine's Medicaid program).
Those changes include dropping 5,000 to 6,000 low-income senior citizens with disabilities from the Drugs for the Elderly program (which provides low-cost prescription drugs to low-income elderly patients), and ending Medicaid coverage for up to 65,000 recipients, including many who are disabled or elderly.
Reimbursement to hospitals and other medical providers would be reduced by up to 10 percent, which could trigger the elimination of up to 4,400 health care jobs. The changes could also result in higher premiums and higher co-pays for people with private health insurance.
Statements by LePage
LePage has been criticized for statements that supporters have viewed as being part of LePage's plainspoken style.
During the campaign, he told an audience that when he became governor, they could expect to see newspaper headlines stating, "LePage Tells Obama To Go to Hell." At the beginning of his term as governor, he was criticized for refusing either to attend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events or to meet with Maine representatives of the NAACP. When questioned, LePage said he would not be "held hostage" by special interest groups including the NAACP, and laughingly told a local news reporter, "Tell them they can kiss my butt."
The remarks were reported in national media, with The Portland Press Herald saying that the comments "sparked outrage... among civil rights group leaders who called his remarks 'astonishing and troubling'".
A LePage spokesperson responded, "He's got a directness about him that a lot of people find appealing". LePage's office later indicated that he would meet with NAACP representatives, but only to discuss matters of concern to "all Maine's people".
In February 2011, LePage again gained national attention when he spoke on a local TV news program saying he hoped to repeal the Maine ban of Bisphenol A, voted for unanimously by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection, because "There hasn’t been any science that identifies that there is a problem” and added: “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards....and we don't want that.”
Maine women responded with "Little Beard Day", a Facebook organized protest that drew a response of more than 1,400. The Facebook page described the event as "...a response to (and attempt to match the absurdity of) the much-reported recent statements by our governor about the safety issues surrounding BPA." Women were invited to don “little beards" and post pictures at the Facebook site.
On March 28, it was reported that the LePage administration had dropped its opposition to the new BPA regulations. After a unanimous vote in the Senate and only three opposing votes in the House of Representatives, on April 22, the Maine legislature passed a bill to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and other reusable food and beverage containers, effective January 1, 2012. Governor LePage refused to sign the bill but it became law without his signature.
In September 2010, the media reported that Ann LePage, wife of Paul LePage, had received permanent-resident tax exemptions on homes in both Maine and Florida, beginning in 2008, which was thought to be a violation of the laws of both states.
Several weeks after being ordered to pay back taxes and penalties by Volusia County authorities, it was determined that Florida law allowed Ann LePage to claim a permanent-resident exemption. She then corrected her Florida filing but lost the Maine tax exemptions for 2008 and 2009, and subsequently paid back taxes due on the property.
Hiring of daughter LePage appointed his 22-year-old daughter Lauren as assistant to his chief of staff—an entry-level position with an annual salary of approximately $41,000—and employee benefits estimated to be worth an additional $15,000. While residing in the governor's mansion, she also receives a housing benefit with an estimated value of $10,000 per year. (Maine's rules against nepotism did not apply to this and other political positions.)
Critics noted that entry-level salaries for teachers and police officers in Maine are only $30,000 and $36,000, respectively, after specialized training, and that Lauren LePage has a limited work history.
Awards and honors
In 2006, LePage was voted the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s businessman of the year. In 2007, he was named "Maine Business Champion" by the National Federation of Independent Business.
LePage is married to Ann LePage and has four children—two from his first marriage, who live in Canada; and two with his second wife Ann. Since 2002, his household has also included a young man from Jamaica, Devon Raymond, Jr. (born 1985). LePage calls Raymond his adopted son, although adoption paperwork has never been filed. LePage met Raymond in Jamaica through Raymond's father, who caddied for LePage during a vacation there.