Politics

August 15, 2013

Breakthrough close on bonding issues, LePage says

He reports progress in talks with Democrats on borrowing for infrastructure projects, which would be presented to voters.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, right, and House speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, speak to reporters at the State House in Augusta. Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday that there may be a breakthrough in the stalemate between his administration and Democratic legislative leaders over a state borrowing plan for road and bridge projects and improvements at higher education campuses.

The Associated Press File Photo

If a compromise is reached, Democrats could potentially vote out a series of bonds so LePage can call an emergency legislative session to have them enacted and sent to voters.

However, time is running out because of a federal law that requires absentee ballots be made available to military service members 45 days before an election. The deadline for the ballots to be printed and ready is Sept. 20, said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

LePage declined to offer many details of the negotiations, saying it was up to legislative leaders to strike a deal. His only requirement, he said, was that the funding go for infrastructure projects and that the total bond not exceed $150 million.

"They're working that out," LePage said. "I told them that as long as it's in the infrastructure base and it's reasonable, then we'll look at it."

LePage said the meeting occurred in response to a request by Democratic leaders.

"You see, I react when I'm asked," he joked, a reference to his tense relationship with Alfond and Eves. "He (Alfond) called a meeting, I went up. Sure."

He added, "We're moving forward and we're getting some work done."

The bond package could include funding for the University of Maine. On Tuesday, Ryan Low, representing the university system, furnished lawmakers with a graphic showing the system's aging facilities, 36 percent of which are more than 50 years old.

"We're at a point where the projects pick us instead of the other way around," Low said.

The Maine Community College System has requested a $15 million bond that would allow it to expand facilities and increase enrollment by 2,400 students.

In Cumberland County, the bonding proposals could help pay for a range of projects, from repairing Route 302 in Bridgton and Main Street in Freeport to improving the intersection at Interstate 295 and Forest Avenue in Portland.

The governor's original transportation bond includes $19 million for multimodal projects, including extending railroad tracks on the Portland waterfront, a crucial piece in the deal with Eimskip, which moved its North American operations to Portland in March.

Eimskip said it moved to Portland after state officials assured the company that Pan Am Railways tracks would be extended about 1,500 feet so freight trains could reach the International Marine Terminal, where Eimskip's ships dock.

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

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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Today's poll: Transportation bond

Are you likely to support a $100 million state transportation bond if it’s on the November ballot?

Yes

No

View Results