Mainers want to know that a promise made is a promise kept. For 40 years, the state kept its promise to share tax revenue with our cities and towns. This funding, called revenue sharing, is crucial for our towns to keep property taxes down and maintain essential service. Last year, Gov. LePage wanted to completely eliminate revenue sharing, but the Legislature fought back and restored two-thirds of his proposed cuts. And last week, a bill we passed to restore $40 million in funding to our towns became law.  

If we had not kept our promise to restore this $40 million to our communities, towns across Maine would have lost an average of 62 percent of state funding for their local budgets. My hometown of Biddeford would have lost more than $700,000.

This funding is used to keep our schools open, our street plowed, our roads repaired, and our police and fire departments operational. It also helps keep our property taxes down for both homeowners and business owners.

While we debated this bill, representatives from towns across the state came to Augusta and told us their budgets are as tight as can be. They depend on the state’s revenue sharing, and could not tolerate placing any more unnecessary pressure on local taxpayers.

Town officials know that while municipalities would face a major blow if the state didn’t keep its funding promise, the real losers would be the taxpayers ”“ because they would be the ones who end up filling the gaps by paying more in property taxes.

Most of us listened and stood with our towns; more than two-thirds of lawmakers in both the Senate and the House supported the bill to restore $40 million in revenue sharing. But support was not unanimous, and LePage has made no secret of his distaste for revenue sharing, even referring to this crucial funding as “welfare” for our towns.

He threatened to veto the bill, and when that didn’t work, he threatened to withhold the jobs bonds approved by the Legislature and the people of Maine.

While he did not veto the bill, he has made good on his threat to withhold the bonds: Last week, in an email to State Treasurer Neria Douglass, LePage reneged and canceled his authorization of nearly $100 million in bond monies for projects across Maine. More than $40 million of this money has already been committed to projects throughout the state. These projects, and the hundreds of resulting jobs, are now at risk because of LePage’s erratic behavior.

This is the worst sort of politics, and unfortunately, it’s not the first time LePage has used voter-approved bonds to exact revenge for not getting his way. He refused to issue the voter-approved economic investments during his first two years in office, stifling economic growth and job creation, and even admitted he was holding the bonds hostage.

Lawmakers stood up to LePage, and stood with our towns and cities when we kept our promise to them by voting to restore revenue sharing. Now the state, represented by LePage, must do so again and keep its promise to the people of Maine.

Under LePage’s watch, Maine is the worst state in the country for private-sector job growth. The people of Maine approved these bonds to create jobs, and they are counting on the governor to keep this promise to them, just as the Legislature kept our promise to our communities.

— Sen. David E. Dutremble is a Democrat who represents the communities of Arundel, Biddeford, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. He lives in Biddeford with his wife and children. His column appears on the first Monday of each month.