AUGUSTA — Six Central Maine legislators were intrigued by goals laid out by Gov. Paul LePage in his Wednesday inaugural address, but they were awaiting details on how he would implement them.

The Republican governor, re-elected to a second and final term in November, stuck to many of his campaign themes in a 40-minute speech, touting initiatives that he said would reform welfare, lower energy costs and shrink government.

LePage said he hopes to eliminate Maine’s income tax, saying “we’re going after” the tax in the administration’s upcoming budget proposal. He asked legislators to consider a tiered welfare system that he said would better transition people from welfare to employment. He also hinted at a plan to reduce state aid to cities and towns, which he conceded could be unpopular at that level of government. He said Maine must expand natural gas capacity to aid businesses and residents and aggressively fight drug crimes.

Many of those goals could be hampered by legislative Democrats, who control the Maine House of Representatives. LePage will find more favor in the Senate, which his party controls. But at one point, the often-combative governor told legislators, “I really do want to work with you.”

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, a member of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, said LePage was “more passionate than I’ve ever seen him publicly” in his speech, with “some very clear ideas about how to move us to prosperity.” But he said he hasn’t been briefed on how LePage would pay for the many pieces of his agenda, such as axing the income tax, expected to generate $1.4 billion in revenue this year.

“The budget document is really where … the rubber meets the road and we’ll see how he spells it out there,” Katz said.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said while he thought his party could work with LePage on welfare and education issues, many of the proposals unveiled on Wednesday could burden property taxpayers. LePage has recommended deep cuts in state aid to municipalities in the past. Last year, legislators passed a bill opposed by LePage that stopped a $40 million cut to revenue sharing.

“I think the state has a responsibility to try to do all we can do to make sure that we’re not passing costs onto our municipalities,” McCabe said.

Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, said he was encouraged by LePage’s overtures to legislators. But he agreed with McCabe that the governor’s proposals would likely trickle down to the local level.

“How’s he going to make that up?” Johnson said. “There will have to be other costs to what he’s not funding, like education, revenue sharing to towns — things that will exacerbate property taxes and further push the burden onto people who can least afford it.”

Rep. Brad Farrin, a freshman Republican from Norridgewock, was interested by LePage’s tiered welfare proposal, which would lower benefits over time after someone receives a job instead of cutting them off at once. LePage has proposed such a system since his 2010 campaign. Farrin said the system is “all or nothing,” calling LePage’s idea “a really good compromise.”

Another freshman Republican, Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, a former Kennebec County sheriff’s deputy, was a statewide D.A.R.E. coordinator and officer, so he tuned in to LePage’s anti-drug message. He said the state should prioritize educating children about risk, saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, will also serve her first term in the Legislature. She said LePage gave “a great speech” that she said overlapped with one of her goals: helping small businesses in her district prosper. She said LePage has prioritized that issue, and they could likely collaborate on it.

“My initial observations are that he’s inviting us to work with him, and I’m ready to work together,” she said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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