Categories: Economic News

Mills, LePage differ sharply on Maine’s economic health

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and former two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage had starkly different views of the state’s economy as things got moving during their fourth debate Thursday evening

LePage attacked the incumbent, suggesting the economy has gone to pot since he left office in 2019 and that Mills’ policies were a big contributor to inflationary pressures. He said people are worse off now than they were four years ago despite the federal pandemic aid that came to the state.

“I’m the guy with a business background, and a business background works that way. In the private sector, when you spend more money and get less results, you get fired,” he said.

Mills said economists believe Maine’s budget is robust and well-positioned to weather a recession. He said the state has regained jobs lost to the pandemic, that the state’s economic growth is 11th in the nation and that Maine’s 3.3 percent unemployment is better than the national average and New England.

“We are doing a very good job under difficult circumstances,” he replied.

Mills, a former state attorney general and Maine’s first female governor, is seeking a second term in one of dozens of competitive gubernatorial races across the country. LePage is seeking a third term and a chance to become the state’s longest-serving governor.

Both accused the other of spreading misinformation during the debate sponsored by News Center Maine and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. They clashed over issues such as pandemic policies, energy issues, school policies, prison staffing, and Native American relations.

The debate was difficult at times, with LePage calling Mills “a hell of a bad economist” at one point early in the debate as he ramped up criticism less than two weeks before the election.

“I’ve spent most of my career listening to strong men talk big to cover up their weaknesses,” Mills replied.

In the earlier debate, LePage accused Mills of spending money like a “drunk sailor” while noting that he returned more than half of a state surplus to residents as $850 relief checks.

On Thursday evening, Mills asked LePage, who criticized the relief checks as a gimmick, if he had cashed his check. “I think so, yes,” he replied.


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