Paul LePage renews push to eliminate Maine income tax as 2022 campaign kicks off


AUGUSTA, Maine – Former Gov. Paul LePage again called for the elimination of Maine’s personal income tax during a kick-off rally for his 2022 gubernatorial campaign on Wednesday, criticizing the overthrow by its successor to several of its key policies.

The former governor – who moved to Florida after leaving Blaine House in 2019, but returned to Maine last year and has hinted throughout that he was considering another candidacy – officially applied early July. But he has kept an unusually low profile this summer, sticking to smaller Republican events and unannounced visits to agricultural fairs.

LePage’s candidacy has been well received by the Republican base, but he faces a tough race against Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who has so far had higher approval ratings than the former two-way governor. mandates achieved during his eight years of division in Augusta with a final term punctuated by a government shutdown in 2017 and a strong national economy.

He focused on budget issues and school choice in his keynote speech, while touching briefly and primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic in general terms. He hammered out Mills on many topics, including early pandemic restrictions on places of worship and school closings, while calling for more “parental choice” in education.

“My campaign stands for faith, freedom and trust,” said LePage. “My adversary stands for the power, control and politics of the past.”

Known perhaps more for his pushes than his politics during his two terms, LePage made national headlines at various times in 2016 for suggesting that drug traffickers were impregnating “white girls” in Maine, then left a secular voicemail message to a criticizing legislator.

He stepped into his tenure behind the Republican majorities in the Legislature, signing landmark bills that established charter schools, enshrined the largest income tax cut in Maine history, and refunded the long standing hospital debt using alcohol income. But his relations with his fellow Republican in the Maine Senate deteriorated in 2015, and he left Blaine House with a record 642 veto, 173 more than Maine’s 23 governors dating back to 1917.

Mills, who as attorney general waged war on LePage during their overlapping statewide tenures, won the 2018 race to succeed him from a Republican who ran to preserve LePage’s legacy , his victory being supported by the Democratic majorities in the legislature.

She reversed much of her predecessor’s policies, implementing the voter-approved Medicaid expansion that it repeatedly blocked, hiring more state employees and setting more aggressive climate goals, although it has resisted progressives’ efforts to raise taxes on high incomes.

Budget issues were a theme of LePage’s speech on Wednesday as the former governor denounced the size of Mills’ first state budget and efforts to hire state employees in positions his administration had left vacant. He said the state’s use of federal pandemic aid money was not sustainable. While Mills’ two-year budgets were the largest in state history, she also bolstered the state’s rainy day fund to record highs surpassing the LePage years.

LePage again called for the elimination of personal income tax, which he proposed unsuccessfully during his tenure. It will be difficult: this tax is expected to generate $ 1.8 billion, or 44% of all revenue, this fiscal year. The former governor proposed to raise and extend the sales tax in 2015 to cut income taxes, but Republicans were skeptical and negotiated a budget that put LePage’s priority aside.

Also on Wednesday, LePage suggested a program that allows parents to send their children to a school of their choice for a year and received some of his loudest cheers when he called for stricter voter identification laws. .

The event at the Augusta Civic Center drew several hundred supporters, with few face coverings yet recommended at the city-owned facility as a precautionary measure in the event of a pandemic. LePage wore a mask on stage before speaking. He mostly avoided discussing the pandemic outside of criticizing Mills over nursing home deaths and hitting school closings and mandates, although he avoided speaking directly about vaccines.

“We don’t need government mandates,” he said. “We need freedom.

His speech was preceded by remarks from lawmakers and others. An endorsement video by US Senator Susan Collins touted the former governor’s job creation skills, but many in the crowd booed the centrist Republican before a smaller group cheered his words Support.

Mills has yet to launch a public campaign, but she is fundraising and has announced a rollout in the coming months. At a COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday, she said it was “far too early to talk about campaigns,” but her campaign emailed supporters earlier today, criticizing LePage for “failed leadership”.

“We just can’t go back,” he said.

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