AUGUSTA — In a preview of his State of the State speech to be given Tuesday night, Gov. Paul LePage said hours before the scheduled address that his passion for education issues stems from his tough childhood.
“Through all hardship I knew education was my key to climb out of poverty, escape a life in prison or on the streets,” the governor said in a tweet of the text of his speech, which is to be given at 7 p.m. before a joint House-Senate session and before a statewide radio and television audience.
Families were expected to be the central topic in his second annual State of the State address, but education and energy, as expected, were major issues, LePage’s tweets indicated. LePage’s office released pieces of the speech on Twitter hours in advance of the event, making it the first time a Maine governor has used social media to promote the annual policy address.
Democrats, meanwhile, went to YouTube to get their message out, in which they also listed education and energy as two of their priority issues.
In an excerpt from his speech, LePage wrote his passion for education “is not an attack on public schools.”
“As a homeless child on Lewiston streets, (it) never occurred to me one day I could be a successful businessman, mayor or even Governor,” LePage tweeted. “Through all hardship I knew education was my key to climb out of poverty, escape a life in prison or on the streets.”
“Education is what saved my life and I cannot accept any child not being given the same opportunity I had,” LePage’s message said.
LePage’s tweets also touched on his energy policy, including a message touting a plan to fast-track permits for natural gas drilling, similar to a 2008 law that streamlined Maine’s wind-power regulatory process.
“I am going to do the same for natural gas infrastructure,” LePage tweeted. Another message says the average Maine family spends $3,000 or more a year to fill their oil tank, but with access to natural gas, they would save average of $800.
Democrats, who hold House and Senate majorities, issued a statement on YouTube hours ahead of LePage’s speech in which House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick outlined the Democrats’ four-point plan to invest in Maine’s future: workforce development, education, lowering energy costs of energy and health care and making key investments in roads, bridges and research and development.
Eves also took direct aim at LePage’s proposed $6.3 billion two-year budget, saying, “It is impossible to cut our way to prosperity. The Legislature must work to put more money in the pockets of Maine families and businesses, so they can spend it locally and help create jobs. The Governor’s budget proposal will do just the opposite.”
LePage’s speech comes a day after the Republican governor met with Democratic House and Senate leaders to discuss the new legislative session. LePage had refused earlier to meet the Democrats and had canceled a meeting with Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland on Dec. 4. During the meeting, which also included GOP leaders, the officials discussed their legislative priorities for 2013.