AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- One day after his office sent out a controversial press release, the spokesperson for Governor LePage says he does not consider Social Security and Medicare to be forms of welfare.
The press release was about the Governor's disagreement with a new study ranking Maine's personal income growth the lowest in New England. That study of income growth was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The Governor criticizes that study because it gives other states higher marks for expanding Medicaid, which Maine didn't do. His press release says the study also covers a range of other government benefits, which include Social Security and Medicare. He says it also includes health insurance premium tax credits under Obamacare. And the press release then says: ""It doesn't matter what liberals call these payments, it is welfare, pure and simple."
That statement, together with the earlier reference to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Unemployment benefits, led one daily newspaper and many of the Governor's critics to say he was calling Medicare and Social Security welfare. Both programs are funded largely by individuals and employers through the payroll tax.
So, even as he was on a plane coming home from China, the Governor's spokesperson issued a new statement Thursday morning, saying he doesn't consider those programs to be welfare, and adding the Governor has supported a variety of policies to help seniors. Adrienne Bennett blamed the Portland Press Herald, NEWS CENTER'S media partner, for "misinterpreting" the original press release and fueling the social security/welfare controversy. Asked if she regretted anything in the first release, Bennett said," I think in hindsight you can always look to improve things. But it was clear in our release the Governor was talking about subsidies within Obamacare."
But despite the new statement from Gov. LePage, the issue has given ammunition to his opponents. Democrat Mike Michaud's campaign issued its own statement, saying "The governor's disdain for Maine families is clear in his attitudes, in his policies and in his words."
And Independent Eliot Cutler's campaign responded with, "The governor clearly remains confused about what is and isn't welfare and what to do about it."
For his part, Governor LePage is on his way home from a trade trip to China. He has several public events scheduled in the Portland area on Friday.