Gov. Paul LePage compared his meager salary to that of a nun or a priest in a radio appearance on Thursday last week.

“I feel like a priest or a nun, you know,” LePage told WGAN radio. “You go into poverty to serve the public.”

LePage made the remarks in response to a question about whether he supports a bill that would increase the salary for the next governor from $70,000 to $150,000. The salary for Maine’s governor is currently the lowest in the country, but LePage also receives $20,000 per year in benefits and a $35,000 per year personal expense account, in addition to free housing, utilities, food and transportation. 

Nevertheless, the governor complained that his salary is so low that, he claimed, he paid more in taxes as the general manager of the Marden’s discount store chain than he earns now. However, after getting “crucified” the last time he backed a salary increase, LePage says he may actually veto the bill. 

“The last time we proposed it for the next governor they made a big stink about it,” the governor said. “This time, if it passes, it will go into law without my signature. I’m not touching it. As a matter of fact, I’m tempted to lean against it now … because I think it’s horrible.”

While the governor may be the lowest paid state chief executive, most of his senior staffers are compensated well over $100,000 per year. For instance, LePage’s senior health advisor David Sorensen, one of the architects of the governor’s budget plan to cut assistance to poor families and Medicaid coverage for 5,800 young adults and roughly 18,000 low-income parents, receives a total compensation package of $114,890.24, including $17,112.96 in health insurance benefits. The Maine median household income is about $51,500, while one in five Maine children live in poverty. 

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, LePage’s press secretary Adrienne Bennett continued the governor’s campaign to eliminate funding for school administrators by implying that many school superintendents are overpaid. In a radio appearance on WVOM, Bennett cited a recent Channel 13 report that examined 50 superintendent contracts and discovered that 47 of the superintendents made six-figure salaries. Bennett — who makes $94,113.60 per year along with $23,000 in benefits — said the Channel 13 report was “mind blowing.”

“Folks in communities, you need to come together, you need to go to those budget meetings, you need to be involved,” said Bennett. “Maybe you don’t have children within the school system, but the likelihood that you’re paying taxes is probably pretty high and you’re contributing in that regard.”

At a public hearing held at Oceanside High School last week, RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald noted that the governor’s past budgets have either flat-funded schools or reduced funding to districts. As a result, he said the state has shifted more education costs on towns and “pitted municipalities against school systems” while making  school administrators “look like the bad guys.”

“Just this last round of referendums, the citizens of this state voted yes on Question 2 to fund education at 55 percent,” said McDonald. “The legislators that I have spoken with have said that a strong message has been sent by the public in the state of Maine that schools should be funded at 55 percent.… In my opinion, what I think we need to do is partner up with school systems and municipalities and push that back at Augusta and not assume the attitude of a victim when it comes to budgets.”