SANFORD — Gov. Paul LePage exchanged heated words with a state lawmaker from York at a town hall forum Wednesday over who is to blame for long waits for state health care services.

LePage, a Republican, and Rep. Patricia Hymanson, a Democrat from York, argued after LePage said the Legislature was to blame for thousands of disabled and low-income Mainers not being able to get health care services from the state.

The meeting took place at Sanford High School before a crowd of about 120.

At one point in the exchange, LePage’s staff asked Hymanson, who is a licensed neurologist, to leave the auditorium at Sanford High School. She refused.

LePage said that lawmakers had taken $30 million in state funds and redirected them to help cover the costs Maine cities, including Lewiston and Portland, were facing to provide asylum-seeking refugees with general assistance welfare benefits.

“That money was taken away from Mainers and given to cities like Portland and Lewiston and Auburn and to the education system,” LePage said. Hymanson stood up to counter LePage.

“No, it’s because people are on multiple wait lists,” Hymanson said. “That’s why. It’s not all you are saying.”

LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, asked Hymanson not to shout while LePage was explaining his point.

Hymanson then said she serves on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS manages the wait lists.

But LePage dismissed Hymanson’s expertise, telling her, “that’s part of the problem. You people are making decisions and you don’t know what’s going on.”

Hymanson said, “I am a physician.”

LePage responded, “I know. That’s even worse because you are emotional about it and do not take in the facts. You do not take the information that is given to you.”

LePage later deferred somewhat, noting, “the physician was right about the wait lists.”

But after the meeting, Hymanson said LePage’s claim that she was emotional was unfounded. She also said that the Legislature had a notoriously difficult time getting information from the administration as they worked on complex health care and public benefits problems during the last legislative session.

“We dealt with these issues all the time, in very difficult ways, in public hearings, negotiations, in bipartisan ways,” Hymanson said. “So when I hear him say something that differs from my understanding of what happened, it is very hard for me to sit in my chair and not have the steam come out of my ears and pop up and say something.”

LePage also touched on several of his often-repeated themes for his town halls, including his goal to lower or eliminate the state’s income tax, reduce the state’s high electricity rates and reform welfare benefit programs.

The audience seemed generally supportive of LePage and gave him several rounds of applause.

“I’m different because I’m not politically correct. If you are, you can’t get it done,” LePage said. He also urged the audience to question their lawmakers and “hold their feet to the fire.”

“And I can tell you this, despite what you hear in the newspapers, I’m not for sale. I’m not even for rent,” LePage said.

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