AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Monday that he plans to move to Florida for tax reasons and teach at a university there, regardless of who Mainers elect to succeed him.

“I’ll be a resident of Florida if Janet Mills wins, I can promise you that,” LePage, referring to the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, said with a smile one day before Maine voters head to the polls.

“I’ll also be in Florida if Shawn Moody wins because I am going to retire and go to Florida,” he said. “I am done with politics. I have done my eight years. It’s time for somebody else.”

LePage answered questions from reporters during a Monday morning news conference to support the campaign of Republican Eric Brakey, one of two candidates challenging independent U.S. Sen. Angus King. A Republican, LePage also is backing Moody – a Republican from Gorham who founded a successful chain of auto body repair shops – in the three-person race for governor between Moody, Mills and independent Terry Hayes.

Now in the final two months of his eight years in the governor’s mansion, LePage said he is “talking to a couple of universities” about teaching in Florida from September through April, but he would not identify the schools. LePage and his wife, Ann, already own a house in Florida and often vacation there. He said he would be in Maine from April to September.

Asked where he would maintain his legal residency, LePage replied Florida.

“I’ll tell you very, very simply: I have a house in Florida. I will pay no income tax and the house in Florida’s property taxes are $2,000 less than we were paying in Boothbay,” said LePage, 70. “At my age, why wouldn’t you conserve your resources and spend it on your family instead of on taxes?”

The LePages sold their Boothbay home in June for $397,500 just four years after they purchased it during a foreclosure sale for $215,000. The 2019 real estate taxes on that house were just under $3,500, according to town tax records. It was unclear how much the couple pays in taxes on their Florida home. However, during his 2010 run for governor, it was revealed the couple were wrongly – and accidentally, they said – receiving a resident-only property tax exemption in both states.

LePage had maintained a low profile in the 2018 governor’s race.

While several recent polls suggest Mills – the state’s attorney general – has opened a lead over Moody, many observers believe the race to succeed LePage will be a close one.

Asked whether he had any regrets from his time in office, LePage said he wished he could have done more to lower energy costs and income taxes in Maine. The Legislature lowered Maine’s income taxes twice during LePage’s tenure, but he has advocated for following the model of states such as Florida and New Hampshire, which have eliminated the income tax altogether.

Moody has pledged to continue much of LePage’s focus on cutting taxes and the size of government. Mills, meanwhile, has said she would not increase taxes.

“If the people of Maine elect Janet Mills, then the people of Maine have spoken and she will be the governor. And I wish her very well,” LePage said. “If Shawn Moody wins – who I hope wins – I wish him very well. And … if Terry Hayes should pull a Jim Longley, like they did in the ’70s, I would wish her well. She is a very fine woman.”

Longley, of Lewiston, won the 1974 election to become Maine’s first independent governor, serving one term.

LePage often has cited Maine’s income tax – currently topping out at 7.15 percent, down from a high of 8.5 percent when he took office – as an impediment to economic growth and attracting/retaining residents. While he has been successful in lowering the tax rate, he failed to convince members of his own party in the Legislature to support a broader tax overhaul aimed at capturing more tax dollars from tourists.

During one of his tax overhaul pushes to further reduce the income tax, LePage caused a brief public dust-up with author and Bangor resident Stephen King. In a radio address, LePage inaccurately suggested that the horror writer had changed his residency to Florida to avoid paying income taxes.

That garnered a rebuke – and an unrequited demand for an apology – from the writer.

“(Tabitha) and I pay every cent of our Maine state income taxes, and are glad to do it,” King said in March 2015. “We feel, as Governor LePage apparently does not, that much is owed from those to whom much has been given. We see our taxes as a way of paying back the state that has given us so much. State taxes pay for state services. There’s just no way around it. Governor LePage needs to remember there ain’t no free lunch.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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