WATERVILLE — Gov. Paul LePage lambasted the Legislature Thursday night for having “no compassion” as it moves toward passing Medicaid expansion.
LePage, speaking at the annual dinner of the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, told an audience of about 90 at the Elks lodge, “Today I left work quite upset because we have a Legislature in Maine that has no compassion. They’re going to be passing Medicaid expansion in the state of Maine.
“If the Medicaid expansion passes, $800 million will have to be increased in taxes for Maine people,” he said.
LePage, who was the first governor to address the children’s home in its 115 years, gave an 18-minute speech that opened the annual dinner, a gathering of community members and businesses that support the children’s home.
Medicaid expansion would bring additional insurance coverage to 70,000 to 100,000 Mainers, and Democrats in the Legislature said on Wednesday they were on the brink of having enough Republican votes to override a LePage veto of the measure.
LePage used his Thursday night speech both to commemorate the children’s home on the work it has done and to continue a path toward re-election in November, when he runs against Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, and indpendent Eliot Cutler, among other candidates.
“While this is the greatest state, I’m asking you this year, if you really care for our youth, then be enormously selective with who you send to Augusta,” LePage said.
In addition to speaking about Medicaid’s potential expansion in Maine, LePage spoke kindly about the work the children’s home has done for area children. The home sponsors adoption programs, early care, an education center, counseling and scholarships.
“For 115 years, you’ve been helping children, and that’s why this is so important,” LePage said. “The work you do, you don’t even see it all. You see it on the surface but not in the hearts of the people you help. The inspiration you give to young people and they can go on with their lives and give back to their communities.”
LePage’s work with the children’s home dates back to the governor’s time as general manager for Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, when in 2006 he helped implement the Little Red Stocking campaign. The campaign, which raises money for the children’s home, has generated nearly $150,000 and benefits the children’s home’s various programs. LePage was also in the midst of his seven-year tenure as Waterville’s mayor then.
LePage grew up with a troubled childhood, a member of a large family marked by domestic violence. He has said he left home at the age of 11.
“Reason I’m passionate about helping people with domestic violence and abuse is because I lived the American dream,” he said, adding that additional tax burdens from Medicaid will make it difficult for low-income families to achieve what he has. “I’m the epitome of the American dream; but with a median household income of $46,000 in Maine, it’s going to be hard for that next generation of kids to have the opportunity I had.”
The dinner also featured a silent auction to benefit the children’s home and an award ceremony honoring various volunteers and corporate partners. The volunteer of the year was Peggy Gayne. The children’s home employee of the year was Vera Williams. A video recording prepared by U.S. Sen. Angus King was played after dinner.