Politics

August 14, 2013

Maine lawmakers wrangle over borrowing for projects

LePage and Republicans push a transportation bond; Democrats want other priorities considered.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, confers with Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, during a meeting of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee Tuesday in Augusta.

Photo by Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal

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Colgan said these savings could likely be achieved if bonds are approved by June, a point Democrats quickly echoed.

LePage, in a video address sent Monday, said the transportation bond was critical lest transportation projects go unfunded next year.

The governor's bond provides $81 million for improvement to highways and bridges and "job stability to those in the construction industry, where more than 8,000 jobs have been lost since 2006," he said.

LePage also highlighted $19 million for multimodal projects, including extending railroad tracks to the International Marine Terminal on the Portland waterfront, a crucial piece in a deal with Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping company that 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.

But Democrats on Tuesday cited an analysis by the Legislature's fiscal office that showed the Transportation Department already has $57 million in voter-approved bonds that the administration still hasn't issued.

An estimated $41 million of that total gives the department some discretion over which projects to fund.

"When the governor is saying there's an emergency, there's $41 million available that he has not issued," said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston.

Ted Talbot, a spokesman for the MDOT, took issue with the flexibility of the $41 million, saying borrowing doesn't allow the department to respond to imminent development projects.

"If we wait, the distance between November and June is seven months," Talbot said. "Businesses don't operate that way. They need to be nimble and ready to move. This bond allows us to be nimble and ready to move."

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

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