During a 30-minute press conference at the Blaine House last week, Gov. Paul LePage defended his administration, chastised the Legislature and, once again, brought up his relationship with the press.

“Now, I will tell you this — we’ve not had a good relationship with the press — and that’s because, very simply, I’m a blunt speaker, I try to speak the truth and what I truly believe,” he said. “Am I always right? No. So I speak out of turn? Yeah. I’m not politically correct. I have not mastered the art of speaking out of both sides of my mouth.”

The line drew applause from the approximately 100 state business leaders standing behind him.

“So folks, I would love to have a great relationship with you, the problem is, I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear, I’m going to tell you what you have to hear,” LePage, a Republican, said to more cheers. LePage has repeatedly said that buying a Maine daily newspaper is “like paying someone to lie to you.”

He then made a plea for reporters to focus on the facts, not sound bites.

“And the only way it’s going to be fixed is if we fix it. I can’t fix it alone, my staff can’t fix it alone,” LePage said. “We can help change the attitudes and work on that, but we need the Maine people and the quickest way to get the Maine people is through the press. So, you can take the sound bites or you can take the hard facts of what’s going on.”

LePage acknowledged his knack for saying things that generate headlines.

“I’m good at giving sound bites. You all know that. In fact, in the last 60 days I’ve sold more papers than you probably have in 10 years. I don’t like it, but I will speak my mind,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, we need to fix this problem.”

Later he said he is “extremely confident” the people outside Augusta are receptive to his agenda.

“They may not like the words I’m using, but they are getting it, and we’re going to get there,” he said.

April vacation

The Legislature is shut down this week, with no House or Senate sessions scheduled and no committee meetings.

Today, of course, is Patriots Day, and Tuesday is a state shutdown day. The rest of the week is expected to be quiet as well.

When lawmakers return April 25, there will be just about eight weeks to go in the session. Besides the budget, the Legislature still needs to tackle regulatory reform, health insurance bills, alternative energy bills and proposed changes to the state’s welfare system.

In education, a charter schools proposal is still on the horizon.

Members of the Appropriations Committee are already talking about coming in on Saturdays.

“We will be putting in some serious hours over the next eight weeks,” said House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono.

St. John to step down

Christopher “Kit” St. John, founder and executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy, has announced that he’s leaving his position at the end of the year.

St. John, a familiar face in State House hallways, founded the organization in 1994 “to ensure that the interests of low- and moderate-income families would be represented in budget debates,” according to a press release put out by the group last week.

The announcement quoted an impressive array of state leaders, from Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe to former governors John Baldacci, a Democrat, and Angus King, an independent.

For his part, St. John said it was time to move on.

“It is timely that I hand the reins to younger imaginations who are similarly dedicated to promoting shared prosperity for all Maine people,” he said in a statement.

Mural update

A federal court hearing is set for Tuesday in Bangor in a suit that challenges Gov. Paul LePage’s right to remove the mural from the Department of Labor.

Afterward, mural supporters are planning a rally in Pierce Park next to the Bangor Public Library.

Also on the mural front, the issue made the Washington Post last week in the latest round of national coverage. You can check it out at www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/a-mural-in-maine-pits-gov-paul-lepage-against-labor-unions/2011/04/12/AFRhG9YD_story.html.

MaineToday Media State House writers Rebekah Metzler and Susan Cover contributed to this column.


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