PORTLAND — The Maine Legislature should pass an $85 million bond package today to help jumpstart the economic recovery, fix bad roads and save the railroad in Aroostook County, House Speaker Hannah Pingree told local business people this morning at the Portland Community Chamber’s monthly breakfast meeting.

Despite concerns expressed by Republican leaders about excessive debt, Maine has very conservative borrowing standards and will retire more debt this year than it is bonding, she said.

“We cannot afford not to do it,” she said.

Pingree, a Democrat, also noted that the proposed bond package would earmark $7 million to build a so-called megaberth for cruise ships in Portland Harbor.

She made her comments before leaving for Augusta to preside over what may be the last day of the legislative session. The bond package needs a two-thirds legislative approval to be sent to voters.

Pingree was followed by her mother, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who gave business people a quick run down of how federal stimulus money was being spent in Maine. She also summarized some elements of the landmark health care reform bill, which she strikes a middle ground for her in what it is designed to accomplish.

In answering a question about the soaring federal deficit, Pingree said it’s a matter of great concern to Congress. But she defended the deficit spending as necessary to keep the country from plunging in to a depression, and said a bit more borrowing probably will be needed for education, energy projects and job creation.


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