AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee split along party lines Monday night, with Democrats supporting an $85 million bond package over GOP objections.

Just one week after the committee voted unanimously to approve a supplemental state budget, it was unable to agree on an acceptable level of borrowing to propose to voters in June.

The vote was 8-5 to recommend a bond package that includes nearly $70 million for roads and railroads; $5.2 million for water and wastewater projects; $5 million for a York County dental clinic and rural dental care, and $5 million for wind power projects.

In addition to funding roadwork, the transportation bonds would pay to buy the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which has more than 200 miles of track in Aroostook County. The current owner plans to abandon the track, which is used by more than 20 businesses.

Also, the bond includes $7 million for a deep-water cruise ship berth in Portland.

The panel’s House chairwoman, Emily Cain, D-Orono, said Democrats view the bond proposals as a chance to create jobs. “It’s a matter of making an investment at a time when we can create additional jobs.”

Rep. Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport, said Republicans can’t support any more borrowing.

“There are worthy projects on the list, but we remain extremely concerned with the capacity of the state to handle ongoing (budget) concerns,” he said.

Bonds need two-thirds support on final passage by the House and Senate, and approval by voters statewide.

Earlier Monday, the Appropriations Committee rejected all other bond proposals put forward this session, including a $99 million package supported by Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro.

The June ballot already includes three bond questions approved by lawmakers last year:

n $25 million for economic development.

n $10.25 million for water and wastewater improvements.

n $33.5 million for weatherization and energy-efficiency projects and to create a fund to develop one or more ocean wind energy demonstration sites.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]