AUBURN, Maine — Blasting a ballot measure that would hike Maine’s minimum wage, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that two proponents of the increase — Ben Chin and Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance — “should be thrown in jail for what they’re doing to the elderly.”
Tipping, a Bangor Daily News blogger, has long been a LePage antagonist. Chin, who lost the Lewiston mayoral race to Bob Macdonald last year, works with Tipping for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group that has clashed often with LePage and is working to pass Question 4, which would increase the minimum wage in Maine to $12 an hour by 2020.
LePage also told the audience at a Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast that the price increases businesses would need to impose to cover higher wages would hurt elderly Maine residents.
LePage said the 325,000 people who depend on Social Security “are going to be pushed deeper into poverty” if voters endorse the proposal.
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During the event, LePage urged voters to reject all five questions on the Nov. 8 ballot.
He also confessed to more than 200 business leaders that his sometimes coarse vocabulary “needs improvement” and that he sometimes says things he shouldn’t.
“If my grandmother were here, she’d have a bar of soap and make me chew it,” LePage said.
But his comments on Question 4, which would increase the $7.50-an-hour minimum wage, were the most strident. He called the proposal “crazy.”
Tipping said the comments were “completely outside the norms of political discourse.” They were also off the mark, he said.
Tipping, the alliance’s communications director, said he figures LePage was mad about a news conference Wednesday pushing the wage hike proposal. He said the higher pay plan is “incredibly popular“ among older Mainers, many of whom are “working incredibly hard and they can’t retire” because they don’t have enough money.
“It’s just complete fearmongering,” Tipping said.
LePage also elaborated on his opposition to Question 1, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana.
He’s worried, he said, that more people will get behind the wheel while high.
“The drug people are going to die on the highway,” LePage said, pointing to statistics he said that show traffic deaths are skyrocketing in Colorado and Washington after they legalized marijuana.
A 2015 report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area found that from 2006 to 2015, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent. A similar study in Washington by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study found that fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled after the state legalized the drug.
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