Gov. Paul LePage, in a video released Wednesday by his re-election campaign, affirmed his support for Social Security benefits and took a swipe at one of his opponents, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, in the process.
LePage, in the 90-second video, resurrected a 15-year-old vote that Michaud cast while he was a member of the Maine Senate. The vote essentially would have created a tax for Social Security recipients who draw high amounts. Then-gov Angus King, now a U.S. Senator, vetoed the bill.
LePage brought up that vote as a way to contrast his record, which he says in the video includes pension reform that will save $20 million annually. Pensions are different from Social Security.
LePage's campaign already has paid for a round of robo-calls on the issue of Social Security and Medicare, a clear sign that it understands the political stakes.
Just two weeks ago, LePage's office put out a press release that lumped Social Security and Medicare into a category of public benefits the governor referred to as "welfare, plain and simple."
When the media reported what the governor said, his office quickly clarified that he was only talking about Medicaid when using the term "welfare," and blamed the media and his opponents for twisting his words.
But seniors, including the AARP, took umbrage with the governor's characterization of the federal entitlement programs.
Not long after LePage's campaign posted its video Wednesday, the Michaud campaign put out a press release touting the fact that 6,000 people had signed an online petition telling the governor to stop referring to Social Security as welfare.
Michaud spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt also said Mainers should look more closely at the governor's record when it comes to seniors, even on pension reform, which LePage claims as a victory.
"He tried to eliminate $60 million in funding to assisted living facilities ... he has also proposed eliminating the Drugs for the Elderly program, attempted to cut critical programs like Meals on Wheels ... and tried to cut respite services for people with Alzheimer's disease," she said.
As for the pension reforms, Reinholt said they actually cut benefits and froze cost of living increases.
The Maine Education Association, the union that represents Maine teachers and has pledged its support for Michaud, also took issue with the governor's claims.
"I find it unbelievable the Governor Paul LePage is saying he supports seniors, said Charlene Thompson, a retired teacher from Saco. "His so-called reforms were nothing more than taking money from retired seniors all over our state. It's shameful."