BIDDEFORD — Gov. Paul LePage predicted on Tuesday that Maine will shed 1,200 to 1,500 jobs this summer, upping his earlier statements about job losses but again offering few specifics.

LePage made the comment during a wide-ranging forum in Biddeford during which he reiterated claims that solar and wind energy are increasing Maine’s energy prices, called for re-instituting “discipline” in schools and claimed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cannot legally be president because he was born in Canada.

Earlier this spring, LePage said during a town hall-style forum in Orono that one southern Maine company was about to shed 900 jobs. While talking about energy prices and Maine’s tax policies on Tuesday, LePage said “this summer we are going to lose between 1,200 and 1,500 more jobs – not all paper (jobs), but some paper and some other industries.”

James Roux of Freeport is escorted out of Tuesday night's meeting at Biddeford High School. He was one of three people who were asked to leave the governor's town hall forum.

James Roux of Freeport is escorted out of Tuesday night’s meeting at Biddeford High School. He was one of three people who were asked to leave the governor’s town hall forum.

LePage said “every single job” he is talking about pays well above Maine’s median income, and he appeared to blame much of the losses on Maine’s tax policies. But the governor did not offer details on the potential job losses.

“I find that appalling,” LePage told a crowd of between 80 and 100 people gathered at Biddeford High School. “I find that incredulous that we would be so greedy for every tax dollar that we would send people away from the state of Maine. Here we are trying to bring people into the state but we are getting rid of jobs.”

Frustrated by his lack of success with state lawmakers, LePage has been holding forums statewide in an attempt to appeal directly to voters on issues like tax cuts, welfare reform, energy costs and student debt. He hit all of those themes on Tuesday and took numerous swipes at the Legislature. But he also reported some legislative progress on welfare reform, luring Maine college students to stay in the state and addressing the opiate crisis.

LePage signaled he would veto a much-discussed bill to expand Maine’s solar industry – predicting it would raise energy prices, despite supporters’ assertions that it would not – and expressed dissatisfaction with a bill bailing out the biomass industry. Asked by a high school student for advice on pursuing a career in political science, the governor replied with a deadpan, “Don’t.”

At one point, a local school worker asked LePage whether there was anything the state could do to deal with unruly students in the classroom and help them learn. LePage answered yes, but added “it takes a Legislature with courage.”

LePage said the state “decided that we don’t need discipline in our schools and I think that is a big mistake.” He said he hoped a task force examining special education would address some of the concerns about what causes some students to become disruptive.

“I think there is a lot that can be done but I think it starts with discipline,” LePage said. “We have to put the teacher back in charge.” He did not elaborate, however.

Paul Auger of Sanford asks a question at Gov. Paul LePage's town hall meeting at Biddeford High School. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Paul Auger of Sanford asks a question at Gov. Paul LePage’s town hall meeting at Biddeford High School.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

LePage’s support for Republican president front-runner Donald Trump was also raised by one individual who the governor described as one of the “groupies” who follow him to criticize him. As for Trump, LePage said the billionaire businessman has shown much better financial judgment than anyone in Washington, D.C.

Turning his attention to Cruz, LePage raised the question of whether Cruz could even serve as president because he was born in Canada. The U.S. Constitution says that any president must be a “natural born” citizen, and Cruz maintains he meets that definition because he was born to an American mother.

LePage called Cruz “ideologically almost my blood brother.” But, the governor said while holding up a pamphlet of the Constitution, his two daughters had to be “naturalized” in the U.S. because they were born in Canada.

“He claims he doesn’t have to be naturalized, he’s an American citizen,” LePage said. “But he was not born here. He was born in Canada, in fact not far away from where my daughters were born. So you can’t have it both ways.”

As has become common at LePage town halls, several people were escorted out of the auditorium after shouting at the governor.

Former Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey, a vocal critic of Gov. Paul LePage who's now a state Senate candidate, was in the front row for Tuesday's town hall meeting. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Former Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey, a vocal critic of Gov. Paul LePage who’s now a state Senate candidate, was in the front row for Tuesday’s town hall meeting.

While the governor traded verbal barbs with several critics – including calling one man “stupid” – Tuesday’s forum was arguably milder than one held in neighboring Saco one year ago. During that forum, former Biddeford mayor and lawmaker Joanne Twomey tossed a jar of Vaseline on stage to protest LePage’s policies.

Twomey was seated in the front row again on Tuesday but did not disrupt the forum, instead asking LePage a friendly question about hydropower. Twomey, who is once again running for the Legislature, said afterward that she would continue to protest LePage policies she believes harm lower-income Mainers.

On the issue of lower-income Mainers, LePage predicted that a referendum on the November ballot to increase Maine’s minimum wage to $12 an hour would hurt elderly residents on Social Security and Mainers between the ages of 18 and 25.

“People on Social Security are going to get hammered . . . they are going to get destroyed,” LePage said. “If anyone thinks your milk and your bread and your eggs and your meats and your coffee at Dunkin Donuts isn’t going to go up when you go from $7.65 to $12….”

Maine’s minimum wage is currently $7.50.