PORTLAND — It’s hardly news to see Gov. LePage stomping his feet when he doesn’t get his way. In his latest tantrum, however, he’s taken hostage the bipartisan jobs bond package that he was instrumental in negotiating.
With it, more than 4,400 jobs across the state of Maine are on the line – all because the Legislature kept its promise to restore $40 million of revenue sharing and mitigate property tax hikes. Gov. LePage seems to believe that holding the jobs bond package hostage hurts Democrats, but it doesn’t.
It hurts construction workers like my dad.
A flatbed driver, my dad gets up at 2:30 in the morning every day during construction season to get the equipment to the side of the road so the morning crew can fix and pave the roads.
Last fall, voters approved $100 million to fix our roads and bridges, which would boost the construction industry at a time when Maine’s private-sector job growth is 50th in the nation. My dad, and thousands of other Mainers, make an honest living building the infrastructure that powers our economy.
Sadly, our infrastructure is crumbling, making it more difficult for businesses to transport their goods to market, or for our cars to survive the obstacle course that’s taken over our morning commute. Let’s be honest, whether you live in Portland or Allagash, we all have stories about “That $#%*!! road” or the giant abyss of a pothole we nearly disappeared into last week. These bonds are essential to fixing those issues, and to keeping our construction industry strong.
Holding up the bonds hurts Maine’s National Guard.
As a member of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, I’ve seen firsthand how woefully out of date our National Guard armories are.
In one armory, the lockers take up half the training and readiness room, a room that has virtually no insulation and is spiking their heating bills. One of the other rooms there has been completely sealed off because the whole room is a lead hazard. To make matters worse, the showers are the next room over. (Yikes!)
The jobs bond package includes $14 million to upgrade the armories and to build a state-of-the-art training center. Officials plan to invest heavily in weatherization to reduce their long-term heating costs, fix some of the major problems and upgrade their general readiness facilities.
Further, the bond investment would bring in as much as $13 million in federal matching funds, paying for about 220 projects in 17 locations across the state.
Last fall, voters agreed that if our men and women in the armed services are willing to put their lives on the line, the least we can do is provide them the training and facilities they need to professionally, and safely, serve our country. To deny them such basic funding for political gain by the state’s chief executive is unconscionable, especially just weeks after he paid tribute to our servicepeople in the State of the State address.
Gov. LePage’s actions hurt our students and businesses.
Businesses across the state have been working with lawmakers to address the skills gap. They understand the importance of a strong educational system to a strong economy. Our students are taking on increased amounts of debt to earn their degrees, and yet the facilities they learn in are falling behind.
The jobs bond package invests $35 million in facilities across the state to ensure students have a 21st-century learning environment, allowing them to learn the skills industry leaders are seeking from college graduates.
Finally, Gov. LePage is hurting Maine’s short-term and long-term economic growth.
Voters approved the $149.5 million jobs bond package because they understood the need to upgrade our facilities while fostering economic growth. One of the key things businesses consistently request is a predictable business climate so they can plan ahead. At a time when construction and paving companies are planning their projects for the coming season, the governor has seriously upset the apple cart, jeopardizing up to 4,400 jobs.
Further, the Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that the entire jobs bond package will attract $177 million in federal matching funds and generate $570 million in local spending.
This package not only injects money into our economy in the short term but also builds a solid foundation for the future with key investments in our roads and bridges, our educational system and our National Guard.
Maybe LePage’s Wall Street donors want him to hold up job creation and infrastructure investment, but back here on Main Street, we’d respectfully like our roads paved.
— Special to the Press Herald