To Paraphrase Reagan, “Governor LePage: put back that mural!”

WASHINGTON — The federal government is stepping into the labor mural controversy in Maine, demanding that the state either put the artwork back up at the Department of Labor or repay the cost of the mural.

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In a letter first obtained by the Associated Press, Gay Gilbert, a senior U.S. Labor Department official, writes that the federal government appropriated the funds to Maine for the mural.

“We understand, ho

wever, that the mural is no longer on display in your headquarters,” writes Gilbert. “Thus, it is no longer being used for an administrative purpose permitted by the Reed Act. Accordingly […] the state must […] return to its UTF [Unemployment Trust Fund] account the amount of the Reed Act funds represented by the mural.”

An alternative, Gilbert adds, would be to simply put the mural back up at the Department of Labor or another state employment security building.

A U.S. Department of Labor spokesman explained to The Huffington Post that the federal money was given to the state of Maine for its unemployment insurance fund. But now that the funds are not being spent on their designated use, the state must put back 63.39 percent of the painting’s value into its own jobless fund. The fair market value of the painting was $60,000 when the funds were first allocated, but that may have changed.

Gov. Paul LePage (R) stirred up controversy recently when he ordered the mural, which depicts scenes from the state’s workers history, taken down from the lobby of Maine’s Department of Labor building.

The letter comes as 350 people demonstrated at the State House on Monday in opposition to LePage’s actions, chanting “Put it back” and “Recall Paul.”

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