- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LISBON, Maine (AP) - With his ambitious budget proposal all but dead at the Statehouse, Republican Gov. Paul LePage took his message directly to voters on Tuesday and urged residents to convince their lawmakers to support his tax-cutting efforts.

The governor told about 100 people at a town hall meeting Tuesday that the people of Maine are being “snookered” by state lawmakers who’re cutting deals behind closed doors and declining to embrace his budget plan.

If lawmakers won’t pass a constitutional amendment to eliminate the income tax, voters should get rid of the “bums” who won’t let them have a say, LePage said. He also reiterated that he’s considering leading a referendum drive to force a statewide vote to lower the income tax if lawmakers don’t act.

“It’s a shameful thing what’s going on. The people are being snookered,” he told the crowd.

Later, a spokeswoman said a referendum is one of the governor’s options, but that he hasn’t decided for sure to do that.

LePage has been traveling the state to tout his ambitious plan to raise and expand the sales tax to pay for a massive income tax cut.

On Tuesday, he compared the state’s tax system of sales taxes, property taxes and incomes to a three-legged stool. “Let’s get rid of one leg of that stool and get on a bike,” he said.

But LePage’ acknowledged last week that his plan is “dead” and is facing dissension in the GOP ranks.

Senate Republicans announced a tentative budget deal with Democrats on Monday that would lower the sales tax and put a constitutional amendment out to voters that would make it harder for future lawmakers to raise income taxes.

A nonprofit political organization that supports the governor launched robocalls recorded by his daughter to criticize Republican senators.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette has said his caucus won’t support that plan because it doesn’t include tax cuts and says he has enough votes to block its passage in the House. He’s urging the other legislative leaders to go back to the drawing board but said Tuesday evening that the two sides are not any closer to reaching a deal that House Republicans will support.

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Associated Press reporter Alanna Durkin contributed to this report from Augusta.

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