Politics

July 5, 2013

Bonding dispute may slash Maine road work

Projects will be dropped, and jobs lost, if lawmakers can't agree on the details of a $100 million proposal.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Rep. Kenneth Fredette, Maine House minority leader

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Sen. Justin Alfond, Maine Senate president

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Additionally, if a bond is not passed, MDOT would need to cut $5 million from its municipal partnership initiative that provides state funding for municipal projects.

The remaining funds, about $19 million, that could be cut are set aside for multi-modal improvements, such as recent efforts to bring shipping back to the International Marine Terminal in Portland and to improve rails.

Maria Fuentes, executive director of the Maine Better Transportation Association, is among those calling for lawmakers to put politics aside to approve a transportation bond. She said the issue should be about jobs. The $100 million bond would support about 2,800 jobs, Fuentes estimated.

"There is so much deferred maintenance already, any more delays could make that backlog even longer," she said. "We think transportation is a pretty bread-and-butter issue. Most people in Maine depend on some road or bridge every day."

Historically, support among Mainers for transportation-related bonds has been strong. Voters have approved the last 16 transportation bond referendums dating back to 1987, and half of those have received more than 70 percent support. The lowest amount of support was 58 percent for a $29.7 million bond in 2008 that includes about $6 million for natural resources.

That's probably the reason why Democrats are trying to create a package that includes transportation funding -- to generate enough public support for other elements of a potential bond package.

Fredette said the Democrats' position on bonds is just the latest example of "them using the process to embarrass Republicans or embarrass the governor."

"It's just like trying to link Medicaid expansion to the governor's hospital repayment bill," he said.

Ericka Dodge, spokeswoman for Alfond, the Senate president, said the intention of the Democratic-led Legislature is to come back in September or October to vote on a bond package to send out to voters. They may not have the final say, though. Bonds require two-thirds support of the Legislature, which means any bills would need bipartisan support.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

 

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