Politics

August 30, 2013

Legislature sends $150 million in bonds to Maine voters

Of the proposals, the largest at $100 million would fund transportation projects.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA – Lawmakers on Thursday approved a series of bond proposals totaling nearly $150 million.

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Senate President Justin Alfond, left, confers with Senate leaders Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, during a special session Thursday at the State House in Augusta.

Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

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The five bonds will go to voters for final approval in November.

The largest, a $100 million bond for transportation projects, includes $76 million for road and bridge upgrades.

It would also provide $24 million for developments such as the proposed rail extension on the Portland waterfront to connect the International Marine Terminal with Eimskip, the Icelandic container shipping company.

The transportation bond was pushed by Gov. Paul LePage, who insisted that the majority of state borrowing go to transportation.

The governor agreed to sign off on the bonds earlier this month after a high-profile standoff with Democratic legislative leaders. Democrats supported the transportation bond, but wanted to use their legislative majority to ensure that the next round of state borrowing includes money for other areas, including higher education.

Democrats didn't get everything they wanted. Two-thirds of the Legislature is required to put a borrowing proposal before voters, meaning Republican votes were required.

While Republicans have supported non-transportation bonds in the past, the caucus indicated early on that it would back LePage's demand that most of borrowing go toward transportation.

The stalemate ended earlier this month when the governor told Democratic leaders that he'd support a set of bonding proposals that didn't exceed $150 million.

The deal resulted in $35.5 million for capital projects at higher education facilities.

Two bonds, each totalling $15.5 million, would invest in science, technology, engineering and math buildings at every campus of the University of Maine and Maine Community College systems.

A separate $4.5 million bond would contribute public funds to a new science facility at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

Another bond proposal would provide $14 million for the Maine National Guard, including $11 million for facility maintenance and repairs and $3 million to purchase 6,000 acres of training land for the Army National Guard.

If approved, the transportation bond would give the Maine Department of Transportation flexibility to fund priority projects.

Some projects in Cumberland and York counties include repaving a 5-mile stretch of Route 302 in Bridgton; rehabilitating the intersection of Interstate 295 and Forest Avenue in Portland; and reconstructing 2.25 miles of Route 1 in Ogunquit.

 

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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