PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Stumping for his proposed budget Thursday night in Presque Isle, Gov. Paul LePage reiterated many of the same priorities he has shared with other Mainers during similar town hall meetings around the state.

LePage advocated for reducing or eliminating income taxes, doing away with revenue sharing, increasing the sales tax and taxing nonprofit organizations, among other things.

More than 100 people, including business and community leaders, were on hand at the University of Maine at Presque Isle to hear the governor and share their comments and concerns with him.

LePage kicked off the evening in the campus center’s multipurpose room by clarifying which nonprofits would be taxed under his proposed plan.

“We are not, under any circumstances, attempting to tax churches. The Constitution separates church and state. We’re not going after the Big Guy,” said LePage.

He said one of his primary goals is to make Maine competitive, both at the state and national level; To do so, certain things must take place.

“We need to get energy costs under control. For the past four years, I’ve worked to make Maine more competitive, including with natural gas. [Massachusetts] Gov. [Charlie] Baker is very interested in working with us. We have the infrastructure, but no gas to put in the pipe,” he said.

The governor said having a competitive edge would help keep youth in Maine.

“About 70 percent leave and never come back. If they do, it’s usually at the tail end of their careers, either for work or family,” he said. “Another issue is our elderly. Augusta takes their money, so they’re leaving the state to keep their money.”

He also said competitiveness was necessary in order to attract job creators and career opportunities.

“The jobs of the future are through STEM education. Those are the areas most jobs are coming from,” said LePage. “This is evident especially in the woods, where workers need to understand technology.”

To be competitive, he’s proposing the elimination of the state’s income tax, revenue sharing and homestead exemption, among other things. As proposed, the governor’s budget looks to cut the tax burden for Mainers by $300 million.

“Mainers are overtaxed. Reducing the top marginal income tax rate to 5.75 percent would cut the tax burden by $300 million for Mainers. Eliminating the estate tax would mean small businesses don’t have to worry — can transfer business to family members if they so choose,” said LePage.

His budget also includes the elimination of income tax on military pensions. LePage said with troops being pulled from Afghanistan and Iraq, more veterans will be returning home and looking for a place to settle down.

“There’ll be a lot of vets retiring. We want to welcome them to Maine because they won’t be taxed. We want to attract them to Maine because they’re trained and skilled; it will help build our population,” he said.

The governor’s budget would increase the sales tax.

“While we’d reduce the personal and corporate tax, we’d widen the sales tax from 5.5 to 6.5 percent. Sales tax set a record in Maine last year with $33 million from tourists. It would be a burden to tourists who’d pay more in sales tax,” said LePage.

LePage said low- to moderate-income families and those on fixed incomes would be eligible for assistance.

“Low- to moderate-income families would receive a $250 tax credit, while those on a fixed income aged 65 and older would see their homestead exemption doubled,” he said. “Revenue sharing would be rolled into the Property Fairness Tax Credit; 90 percent of town managers in the state see value in that.”

“[Opponents are] worried about the towns. I’m worried about the people that live in the towns,” he said.

After making his pitch, LePage opened the floor for public input.

Russell Donnelly of Presque Isle was the first to speak, telling the governor he’d like to see more done to decrease energy costs. LePage said the State House was “using no more oil” and had switched to natural gas and electric and that “mini heat pumps are the way to go.”

Jon Frederick, town manager of Mapleton, Castle Hill and Chapman, asked “while the trade-off for individual taxpayers may be positive, what benefit will communities like mine that are already consolidating see. What will we get back?”

LePage said he “asked the Legislature to put $5 million in two pots to help schools and communities that consolidate.”

“If you tell me how you’ll consolidate, we’ll pick up the cost,” said LePage.

The governor went on to discuss how school systems could consolidate more, specifically by sharing superintendents.

“Superintendents are winners. They’re double dippers — retire and come back to work,” said LePage, referring to superintendents who retire and collect pensions, but then return to the same or similar job and salary. “The losers are the students and the teachers who dip into their own pockets to buy supplies, while some retire and come back — getting double pay.

“We are educating kids, but they can’t get a job in their home state” because people retire and go right back to work, said LePage. “We as taxpayers and parents need to fix the school department.”

Presque Isle City Councilor Dick Engels said the city had already reduced its budget by $1 million annually.

“Either we’ll have to increase taxes or reduce services. What would you suggest we reduce” if we lose revenue sharing, said Engels.

“You’ll lose $750,000 in revenue sharing. Presque Isle residents will have $6.8 million more in pocket [from not paying income tax]. I bet they’d do that all day long,” said LePage.

Carol Bell of ACAP’s Healthy Aroostook program asked what the state is doing to promote a healthy workforce. LePage said he encourages individuals to “take responsibility for their health.” He indicated he would, however, veto a proposed tax increase on cigarettes, citing most smokers were low-income individuals and that an added tax would force many to “roll their own cigarettes, which is even worse.”

“We’re trying to get kids to quit smoking but legalizing marijuana,” said LePage. “We put taxes on junk food but can’t do the grocery shopping for 1.3 million individuals. Schools need to offer better choices for students.”

Blake Winslow, chair of the Aroostook Republican Committee, asked “if revenue projections don’t meet requirements, what will you do to match?”

LePage said his initial plan will go in two steps, with the goal being “by 2018 to go to zero income tax,” noting he’d been “convinced by more moderate people to go slow.”

“I got the hospitals paid off and didn’t raise taxes. I may not be politically correct, but I do know mathematics,” said LePage.

Robert Leland inquired about the $250 credit for retirees.

LePage said under his proposal, homestead exemptions would increase from $10,000 to $20,000 for qualified individuals.

“Based on the maximum Social Security payment today, you’d be fixed at about 6 percent — never pay more than $3,000 in property taxes,” said the governor.

Jim Gardner, Easton’s town manager, sought information on the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program and Business Equipment Tax Exemption program. The Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program was established in 1997 and involved businesses paying taxes to a municipality, for which they’d receive a receipt that would then be submitted to the state for reimbursement. The Business Equipment Tax Exemption program came along in 2008 as a replacement for the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program.

According to Gardner, it’s a “state-created program whereby any new equipment put into industries after 2008 is exempt from taxes” at the municipal level. The state then pays the communities 50 percent of the taxes.

“Now we wait for reimbursement from the state from [the Business Equipment Tax Exemption program], so we’re losing 50 percent of the taxes,” said Gardner.

LePage said he thought each program provided communities with 50 percent of the taxes.

“No, it’s shifting the money over. In Easton, it raises our taxes about a mill and a half. I guess if you’re getting more income tax back, you’ll be expected to pay more,” said Gardner.

LePage told Gardner he’d look into the matter, adding he’d have an aide get more information from Gardner after the meeting.

The governor changed topics briefly, talking about the number of students needing remedial courses before pursuing higher education. He said it’s about 50 percent of those attending community colleges, while only 25 percent need such help at the university level.

“We’re working, starting with this budget, so that everyone’s on the same page. Students shouldn’t have to take the same courses again,” said LePage.

“I’m moving to get Maine students college for free. If they put in the work, we’ll pay for it,” he added.

“I’m not critical of teachers; they’re underpaid and overworked,” he said.

Jim Nesbitt asked the next question, inquiring how much communities gain if all nonprofits pay taxes. LePage said while there wouldn’t be a lot in rural areas, those with over $500,000 in real estate would have to “pay their fair share.”

“If you don’t want to tax universities and hospitals, fine. There could be fees on buildings,” he said. “The point I’m trying to make is I’m not talking about hurting anyone, I’m talking about them paying their fair share.

“Hospitals have some of the highest paid staff. If money goes back to doctors’ pockets, employers should be able to give back to communities,” said LePage.

The governor concluded by saying if the mining bill passes, Aroostook County will see millions of dollars and many jobs created. “I helped you argue the mining bill, you help me get rid of term limits,” he said.

“There’s a billion in gold in this county, according to geologists. I’ve never seen anyone lose money on gold,” said LePage.

Shelly Mountain questioned what would be lost on cleanup.

LePage said there would be money lost on cleanup using 1950s technology but not using technology from 2015. Mountain asked which mines he was referring to that didn’t need cleanup, with the governor saying “every fracking operation in the country does not pollute.”

LePage noted in closing that it was the middle of March, and “I’m the only one talking budget.”

“I’m here tonight to reduce your taxes,” said LePage.