AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage responded Thursday to partisan criticisms of his first 100 days in office, blaming his lack of recent accomplishments on the slow pace of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

LePage, a Republican, said he agreed with Democrats who gave him an “F” during a news conference held Wednesday, though Democrats actually issued him a grade of “incomplete.”

“The last 64 days, we’ve been sitting around selling newspapers because nothing’s coming down from upstairs,” the governor said, referring to the location of the House and Senate floors above his office in the State House. “Not because the Republicans aren’t trying, because what’s happened with the loyal opposition is they say no to everything.”

During his governor’s first few months in office, LePage has stirred up controversy and created national headlines for things such as telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt” and taking down a labor-themed mural at the Department of Labor that he said was too one-sided.

His budget proposals and an attempt to eliminate a partial ban on the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A have led to several protests at the Capitol. Recently, eight Republican senators penned an opinion column that ran in many Maine newspapers, chastising him for what they called numerous “distractions.”

In a wide-ranging news conference held at the Blaine House before about 100 business leaders from throughout the state, LePage said he was learning that “in government you have to wait” but said he was growing tired of waiting.

“I’ve come back from vacation, I’m ready to go to work and the loyal opposition needs to come to the plate,” he said, referring to Democrats.

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said Democrats are working with Republicans on a variety of policy areas, including the biennial budget and regulatory reform. Both initiatives are expected to differ from LePage’s original proposals but are expected to pass with wide bipartisan support.

“(With Democrats) being in the minority, if the Republicans can agree on something altogether, they can pass it,” she said. “Because of the extreme approach the governor has taken so far in his proposals to several items, including regulatory reform and aspects of the budget, there has been push back from all sides on the proposals and a desire from all sides to find a better way.”

LePage also complained that if Democrats did not like certain initiatives, such as welfare, pension or tax reforms, they should offer alternatives.

Cain invited the governor to read the plans crafted by Democrats on those very issues.

“I hope the governor will begin to read the policy committee reports on the budget,” she said. “For example, in Health and Human Services, the Democrats in that committee have come back with a substantive minority report for Appropriations to consider in their process. The tax committee is also coming back with a report that has a shared goal of lowering the income tax burden on people.”

Though most of his barbs were aimed at Democrats, LePage did knock legislators as a whole at times. He said he’s held several receptions at the Blaine House with lawmakers and he’s been impressed, only to be disappointed later.

“I will tell you some of the nicest people are in state government. For some reason, when they leave the Blaine House, they go across the street and change,” he said. “So one on one, they are absolutely great people. As a group, it’s a different ball game.”

Republican legislative leaders said they were pleased with the pace of their work.

“I do understand the desire to see some of the big things that are in progress get to fruition; and we’re all looking forward to that, and that will come,” said Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry.

“Are there areas of bills that would be easier to get through or that we could pass on a partisan basis? Yep, but you know, we’re making every effort where we can to work together to extend the respect to members of the minority that wasn’t always afforded us to help shape legislation.”

House Speaker Bob Nutting, R-Oakland, said at times in the legislative process lawmakers are busier than the governor and vice versa.

“I was sorry to hear that the governor didn’t fully understand the legislative process and that perhaps that no one in his staff had been able to explain that to him,” he said, “so he would not be wondering aloud why he has nothing to do.”

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

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