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Politics

LePage to Democrats: 'Butt Out' of Executive Branch Business

Gov. Paul LePage has suggested that top Democrats at the State House "butt out" of the business of the executive branch. It all started last week when Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves sent a letter to LePage urging that he immediately terminate the controversial contract with the Alexander Group to study the state's welfare system. The governor responded with a letter and some comments. And the partisan tensions that characterized the legislative session are continuing long after the last bang of the gavel.

President Alfond says the letter he and Speaker Eves sent to the governor simply asks that he terminate a contract that LePage himself has already criticized, in the wake of revelations that the report plagiarized excerpts from a Washington think tank.

"He has himself suspended $500,000 of payments - why not just eliminate the whole thing?" Alfond says. "We know that this report was fraught with challenges every step of the way."

Eves says the evidence continues to pile up that the report does not meet basic standards of professionalism and thoroughness, and is of little - if any - use in setting Medicaid policy.

"We have been talking about our concerns around Gary Alexander and his work, and the quality of his work, and now what has come to be substantiated plagiarism," Eves says.

LePage says he is continuing to review the contract and the report, and plans to meet with the consultant, Gary Alexander, later this week. But he says the matter is within the executive branch of government and that legislative leaders should stay out of his area of responsibility.

"Instead of worrying about the executive branch, they ought to concentrate more on legislative branch," LePage says. "We have nursing homes that are struggling, haven't had an increase since 2007. I found the money. They refused to give them an increase."

LePage is referring to his proposal for an additional increase for nursing homes in the final days of the session, above the increase passed in the budget over his veto.

He also criticized lawmakers for not supporting his proposals to increase the number of drug enforcement agents, or to address the growing problem of gangs importing heroin and other drugs into the state. He says the Legislature under Alfond's and Eves's leadership did not do its job on these key issues.

"What I am concerned about is the gangs that are coming into Maine that have a stranglehold of heroin markets in Maine," LePage says. "We need to get those people either out of Maine or incarcerated. I would like to make them the guests of the state of Maine for 25 years."

Eves says the governor is trying to avoid the question of terminating the contract with the Alexander Group and taking action to recover the taxpayer money wasted in what he characterizes as a useless study.

"This governor has clearly marginalized himself," Eves says. "He doesn't want to work with anybody. The 180-plus vetoes are representative of that. He sat on the sideline with his veto pen."

Both Eves and Alfond say it would be best to sit down with the governor and discuss the issue, but acknowledge there have been few meetings between the three. They have met frequently with his staff.

The governor says he will meet with them any day. But as of today, there is no meeting scheduled between the governor and the two top leaders of the Legislature on this - or any other - issue.