LePage and a group of sportsmen fight over a $40 million hatchery

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage says he lost political support from a powerful statewide fish and game organization because he refused to promise Maine would fund construction of a $40 million hatchery in 2023.

The Maine Sportsman’s Alliance Institute for Legislative Action has identified building a new hatchery as a top policy priority. Three of the 22 questions he included in his 2022 political questionnaire used to assess Maine candidates were about the hatchery.

LePage said on Monday he supports the idea and believes the next governor will find a place for him in a future budget, but said he couldn’t commit to it until he reviewed the details. of a hatchery plan and reviewed how it fits into the overall state budget priorities.

“They kept pushing and pushing,” LePage said Monday in a phone interview about the alliance’s candidate review process. “I said wait a minute. They just want money. So I called them and told them to shoot my investigation. I don’t want to be involved. I cannot be bought.

As a result, the alliance gave LePage an incomplete score in its 2022 election guide, saying it lacked the information needed to score it after deciding to withdraw its questionnaire. He gave incumbent Democratic Governor Janet Mills an A grade and a thumbs up.

David Trahan, the alliance’s executive director and lumberjack and former state senator from Maine’s 20th District, said Monday there were no matching expectations from the candidates. He said the alliance’s board is sticking to the ratings given in its legislative guide.

“We thought the interview was cordial and respectful,” Trahan said. “We have shared our concerns with Governor LePage, as we do with all of our candidates. All our problems. We were respectful. We have never put pressure on any candidate.

The alliance says a new hatchery with a state-of-the-art filtration system is needed to raise enough fish to supply Maine’s rivers and lakes and meet the lower phosphorus discharge standards that are coming. profile in the future.

The group’s hatchery committee predicts that retrofitting Maine’s existing hatcheries to meet new phosphorus standards could cost $150 million to $200 million and could still require the state to cut fish production. In its election guide, the alliance says it would be “much more cost-effective to build a new hatchery for $40 million.”

Mills, in her questionnaire, said she supported the construction of a new hatchery and supported both a bond of up to $20 million and the use of general funds to build it. As an avid angler, she said she understands the economic impact angling has on Maine’s economy.

“I strongly support the expansion of Maine’s hatchery system,” Mills wrote. “I plan to work with SAM, the Legislature and (the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife) to review all available options and determine whether borrowing or an appropriation from the general fund is a better option.”

LePage accused Mills of selling himself to curry favor with the alliance and buy its members’ votes.

“If my opponent wants to promise you $40 million, go see her, she’s already trying to buy the election with the $850 checks,” LePage said, referring to Mills’ inflation relief payments to the Maine taxpayers. “There’s nothing I can do about it, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up my principles.”

ALLIANCE COUNCIL TO MEET

Trahan said he was calling an emergency board meeting on Tuesday to respond to a series of tweets from LePage on Monday morning claiming the alliance wanted him to promise them $40 million for a project to get a better mark on their survey.

“Unlike Janet Mills, I don’t make campaign budget promises to curry favor and buy votes,” LePage tweeted. “Maine athletes know they can trust me to defend their rights. I do not buy endorsements or support by making promises.

The Mills campaign, reached late Monday afternoon, had no comment on LePage’s claims. Last week, Mills released a written statement on his highest rating with the alliance, saying the outdoors are central to Maine’s economy and its people.

“I have fought hard to ensure that we preserve and protect our lands, creating more opportunities for hunting, fishing and mountain biking, and – more importantly – to ensure that future generations can enjoy our state the same way we do today,” Mills said.

In its election guide, the alliance began its explanation of its support for Mills by noting that she reached out after his election in 2018 even though she endorsed his opponent, Shawn Moody, and then worked with the alliance to temper the proposed gun control. legislation.

The group noted that Mills supports Maine’s “yellow flag” law, which allows police to confiscate guns from someone who is deemed a threat to themselves or others. The alliance supported this bill, which requires a medical evaluation.

Mills also said she would oppose a series of gun restrictions, including requiring a license to buy ammunition, raising the age to buy ammunition from 18 to 21, requiring background checks for third-party firearm sales; and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.

LePage, who earned A+ ratings from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, likely would have done well on this part of the quiz and records check, but the group agreed to keep the results of the incomplete quiz from The page.

CONSERVATION ALSO AN ISSUE

LePage would likely have answered differently than Mills in at least one other part of the questionnaire that is important to the alliance – open space conservation programs that protect critical fish and game habitat, particularly the Land for Maine’s Future program. and deer purchases.

Mills supports many conservation programs. LePage said he supports them, but only if they don’t depend too heavily on federal funding, and therefore increase the national debt, or remove open space from local tax rolls, which he says , unfairly shifts the tax burden from a municipality to seniors.

In 2015, he held $2 million in voter-approved LMF bonds, in addition to more than $11 million in LMF bonds from previous years. At the time, he admitted he was looking for leverage to increase timber harvesting on state land. He released the bonds later that year.

The alliance is a powerful lobby group at the State House that rates candidates for the US Congress, Blaine House and state legislature based on their responses to a questionnaire. He has officially endorsed candidates in the past, but said he does not plan to do so this year.

On Monday, LePage said he wasn’t too concerned about the incomplete rating from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

“Let’s put it this way, the NRA has 100,000 members in Maine and SAM has 7,000,” LePage said. “If I lose the election by one vote, it had an impact. But listen, my feeling is that my principle is more important than buying the election. The budget is more important.

The alliance also gave an incomplete rating to independent Sam Hunkler, a Beals doctor who will be the third candidate in November’s ballot for governor. On its website, Hunkler said Maine must conserve its natural areas, but does not take a position on conservation programs.


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