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Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

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Reactions to LePage Plans to Privatize Maine Job-Training Program

Local union and social-justice advocates say important questions linger about Gov. Paul LePage's plan to use a private contractor to administer a Maine job-training program. (MSEA)
Local union and social-justice advocates say important questions linger about Gov. Paul LePage's plan to use a private contractor to administer a Maine job-training program. (MSEA)
September 22, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has said he doesn't understand all the hoopla, but questions remain about his plan to contract with an out-of-state company to administer part of the state's welfare program.

According to Maine State Employees Association President Ramona Welton, Gov. LePage has said that Maine needs to provide better job training to help raise wages for local workers. So, she said, she's puzzled by his proposal to cut state employees who administer the “ASPIRE" program and turn the work over to an out-of-state company.

"This is a leg-up program, it allows the person to advance themselves,” Welton said. "It is not a handout, because if they do not do the work, they will not advance."

The private contractor, Fedcap Rehabilitation Service, is on record as saying the company isn't sure if it can run the program any cheaper, but will follow state rules.

Chris Hastedt, public policy director with Maine Equal Justice Partners, said this contractor is new to Maine, and her group's primary concern is whether the company will be fully committed to the goal of finding quality jobs for the Mainers who need them most.

"To provide single parents with kids who are really poor the services they need to be able to get and sustain employment, in jobs where they can support their families - that means more than just assessing them and saying, 'OK, this low-wage job is for you,’” Hastedt said.

The governor's proposal would trim 51 state jobs. Welton said that's just a drop in the bucket compared to LePage's bigger plans to cut the jobs of many more state workers.

"He wants to eliminate up to 2,300 state employees,” Welton said. "That's his proposal in his budget."

LePage has defended the proposed cuts, saying they will help move Maine to a more prosperous economy.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME