Final Maine Gubernatorial Debate 2022: Mills, LePage on inflation, child protective services

Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 11:28 PM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WABI) - Maine’s gubernatorial election is five days away - and both candidates used their final debate Thursday as one last chance to reaffirm their positions.

Democratic incumbent Governor Janet Mills and Republican former governor Paul LePage sparred on several topics during tonight’s debate broadcast across WABI, WMTW and WAGM.

The first question of the night was about inflation - and it wasn’t the last time it came up. Governor Mills promoted giving money back to Mainers in the form of relief checks.

“Creating an inflation relief program that put money in your pockets - $850 checks,” Mills said. “Look, the price of food is up right now, the price was up when he was governor as well. But, the problem is, we need to let people have cash in their pockets. There’s not a lot a governor can do to fight global inflation, but what I can do is work across the aisle to help pay for your oil bill.”

LePage criticized the relief checks, and, in a separate answer, proposed suspending or eliminating certain taxes.

“The $850 is probably the most inflationary thing you did, but those checks went out in July,” LePage said. “That money’s long gone.

“The diesel tax, we should suspend it now until we get off of heating oil. We have to work at phasing out the income tax. Too many of our prominent people leave the state and go to Florida.”

The candidates were also asked about how to improve child protective services - something Mills says she is already working on.

“Keeping Maine kids safe is our highest and most important priority,” Mills said. “My administration is working to improve the DHHS child protection services. We have, with the legislature’s help, funded more case workers, working with the legislature to provide more hotline responses, response time on weekends and evenings, and 30 percent more funding for foster care and foster parents, and that is important too.”

But LePage pointed to record child deaths in Maine the last two years - and said Mills is not doing enough to stop it.

”Maine has experienced a record number of child deaths two years in a row,” LePage said. “As Governor, I propose a stand-alone agency outside of DHHS. DHHS is too big, and it’s not giving the proper attention. Most recently, Senator Bill Diamond tried to promote this reform as well. However, my opponent, Janet Mills, opposed these reforms. She said the accounting change was much too difficult to implement.”

You can watch portions of the full debate, including discussions on education, housing, abortion, COVID-19 and more, online here.