Sunday, March 9, 2014
By GLENN ADAMS The Associated Press
AUGUSTA - With a U.S. Senate race, a same-sex marriage question and other high-profile contests dominating Maine's fall campaign, advocates for the four bond proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot are working quietly to get voters' support.
"There isn't a lot of money going around to go into the bond campaign side because it's all going to the candidate side," said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which is supporting all four borrowing proposals.
So groups like the chamber, which represents 5,000 businesses, are relying on the Web, networking with like-minded groups and taking traditional approaches such as public speaking engagements to get their views across to voters.
The $76 million in bonds, in the order in which they will appear on the ballot, call for $11.3 million for capital improvements for the University of Maine System, community college system and Maine Maritime Academy; $5 million to buy land and conservation easements; $51.5 million for highways, bridges and other transportation projects; and $7.9 million for public drinking-water systems and wastewater treatment facilities.
"It is a modest package," said Connors. "The majority part of it is for infrastructure needs, which strengthen the economy."
The Mid Maine Chamber of Commerce, however, is opposing the improvements for higher education systems and for water and sewer upgrades, saying passage "would place Maine further into debt at a time when Maine taxpayers are least able to bear the additional burden." The Waterville-based chamber is supporting the transportation bond.
Also supporting the ballot's largest bond proposal is the Maine Better Transportation Association, which has a website (www.keepmainemoving.org) and a coalition of about 15 groups that will use their own information networks to advocate for passage.
The 14,000-member Sportsman's Alliance of Maine is supporting the land conservation bond, said Executive Director David Trahan.
It is using its own publication and mailing list to promote the $5 million bond, which would provide water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, farmland and working waterfront preservation opportunities. It is also networking with other conservation groups, Trahan said.
The alliance sees the land bond as an extension of state-backed efforts to rebuild Maine's deer herd by expanding its habitat.