AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage took aim Saturday at a bond package totaling nearly $100 million, saying he opposes the borrowing proposal but stopping short of threatening to veto it.
“A bond is a fancy word for borrowing money the state doesn’t have,” LePage said in his weekly radio address.
LePage said he wouldn’t accept the bipartisan bond proposal that came out of the Appropriations Committee this week until the current budget is sorted out. He’s insisting on further cuts to welfare to bring the state into line with federal standards when lawmakers reconvene May 17.
Even then, he said, “bonds are not the answer to our problems.”
Lawmakers authorized $725 million in bonds during the previous administration and there’s no evidence of job creation during a period that saw unemployment grow from 4.8 percent in 2003 to 8 percent in 2011, LePage said. State labor statistics show only 54 jobs were created during that period.
The bond package that the Appropriations Committee adopted includes $51 million for transportation-related projects. Another bond would include $20 million for research and development projects that would be bid through the Maine Technology Institute. About $11.3 million would go to higher education, $8 million would go to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects, and $5 million would support the Land for Maine’s Future Program.
Republican Sen. Richard Rosen, the committee’s Senate co-chairman, said he was proud of the package because Democrats and Republicans came to a consensus on most items.
And in Saturday’s Democratic radio address, Sen. Phil Bartlett of Gorham said the bond package will get people back to work and create good-paying jobs.
“A real jobs package is exactly what Maine needs to give our economy a much-needed shot in the arm,” he said.
LePage stopped short Saturday of pledging to veto the bonds, but he said the state should focus on repaying $500 million that’s owed to state hospitals instead of taking on more debt.
Down the road, the state should continue to reduce taxes and red tape, he said.
“If we want good paying careers we must invest in our job creators by reducing red tape, lowering taxes, and making structural changes to energy, education and welfare. These are the long-term solutions that can help revive the American Dream for Mainers,” he said.