AUGUSTA – Mayors of Maine’s largest cities said Thursday that cuts proposed by Gov. Paul LePage to Maine’s General Assistance program would throw poor people into the streets and put new burdens on property taxpayers.

The 10 mayors announced the formation of the Mayors Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development, saying their top priority is fighting the General Assistance cuts, which could save the state nearly $6 million.

The state provides most of the funding for the locally administered program.

Speaking for the coalition, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said LePage’s proposal would have a “far-reaching and sweeping” impact on thousands of people across the state. State officials did not know how many people are enrolled in the town- and city-run program, and the Maine Municipal Association had no total, but said it fluctuates.

Karen Heck, the mayor of Waterville, where LePage also served as mayor, called the proposals the latest in “this war on poor people.”

“The number of poor people is increasing in the state and we’re not just going to let them live in the streets,” she said.


The mayors of Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Biddeford, Lewiston, Saco, South Portland and Westbrook are also in the coalition.

Brennan said the coalition will also push for state policies that foster economic growth, a skilled work force and reasonable tax rates that support growth.

The General Assistance cuts would come on top of Medicaid reductions that have left hundreds of Mainers without health care coverage and forced cities to pass the cost of taking care of the poor onto taxpayers, the mayors said.

“All of us as mayors share the same concern, and that is pressure on property taxes,” said Alan Casavant, a Democrat who is Biddeford’s mayor and a state representative for the city.

Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald said his city, one of the state’s poorest, “would take a real hit” from the cuts. Macdonald said the mayors will present lawmakers with an alternative to LePage’s proposal.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the administration is willing to work with municipalities toward common ground.

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