Friday, March 7, 2014
AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage is proposing a $100 million borrowing package that would be spent for upgrades of roads and bridges and other transportation projects.
The bond proposal, L.D. 1095, is sponsored by Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, but is designated as a governor's bill. It needs two-thirds support by the Legislature and voters' approval statewide.
The bond package is one of several proposed in this session. It arrives as Democratic legislative leaders call for the governor to release $104 million in bonds that have already been approved by voters for various infrastructure projects.
The governor has taken a hard stance on bonds, arguing that the state's finances must improve before he will approve new borrowing proposals or sign those already approved by voters.
More recently he has said he will initiate borrowing on the $104 million in voter-approved bonds when the Democratic-led Legislature passes his proposal to pay back Maine's hospitals $484 million in Medicaid reimbursements.
Democrats have described the governor's decision to withhold the bonds as a "ransom note."
Adrienne Bennett, LePage's spokeswoman, said the governor will make a statement on the transportation borrowing package Thursday.
The proposal includes $46 million for highway projects designated as a priority by the Maine Department of Transportation. It also includes $5 million for secondary roads.
Another $30 million would go to bridge repairs, while $19 million would be spent on assorted marine, aviation and rail projects.
The governor's proposal would release $154 million in federal matching funds, according to the bill's text.
Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, on Wednesday reiterated a request for the governor to release the voter-approved bonds, saying LePage shouldn't "play politics" with investments that can spur Maine's economy and put people to work.
The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave Maine's infrastructure a D-plus in its four-year report card. The grade was a slight improvement over the D the state received in 2009.
Voters approved three bond issues totaling $64 million in November, on top of $40 million approved in 2010.
When combined with federal matching dollars, the total investment comes to $296 million.
Those projects include $18.5 million for port-related work, $9.5 million for education infrastructure, $29 million for research and development, and $192.5 million for road and bridge upgrades.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have introduced several bond proposals in this session.
All of the bills, including the governor's plan, will be reviewed by the Legislature's budget-writing committee.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: