On Nov. 4, Maine voters will be faced with six statewide bond referendums, ranging from establishing a center for researching the genetic origins of cancer to providing money for protecting drinking water sources. While some of the questions deserve voters’ support and offer enough information to get a gist of how the taxpayers’ money would be spent, others do not.

The lack of information is an ongoing issue when it comes to the state’s bond-related referendums. The government is simply asking too much of voters on Election Day. It either needs to reduce the number of questions posed or include enough information that voters can make a truly informed decision. The status quo is not acceptable since the lack of information regarding the proposals, while available online at www.maine.gov for voters’ perusal prior to entering the poll, does not accompany the actual referendum proposals.

Question 2

We support Question 2, which would allow the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to spend $8 million on a laboratory to study health threats related to ticks, mosquitoes and bedbugs. With so many of us hesitant to walk through the woods or a grassy field with the incidence of tick-related illnesses on the rise, this seems like money well spent. Maine’s economy is partly based on people’s desire to get outside, so any progress on these fronts would be appreciated.

Question 3

We also support Question 3, which provides $4 million to back loans to small businesses and $8 million to create jobs, revitalize downtowns and the rural economy. With disturbing reports of Verso and Great Northern Paper shuttering their mills in small towns, this sort of investment, which would be administered by the trusted Finance Authority of Maine, seems to be perfect timing.

Questions 4

We don’t support Question 4, because of both the inanity of the question itself and the lack of information provided. Question 4 seeks $10 million to be matched by $11 million “in private and other funds” to build a research center “to discover genetic solutions for cancer and the diseases of the aging.” It would also “make the state a global leader in genomic medicine.” Voters should view the wording of this question with a healthy dose of skepticism. First, voters who are being asked to support some kind of research center should know the sources of the so-called “private and other funds.” The wording also stunningly promises that the new center will solve the age-old riddle of cancer. Oh really? The question reads more like a sales pitch for snake oil than a serious proposal worthy of taxpayers’ investment.

Question 5

We don’t support Question 5, which would approve $3 million to modernize and expand a biotechnology lab somewhere in the state – the location of which is not disclosed – that would specialize in tissue repair and regeneration, as well as help train a biotech workforce. While this effort sounds noble, there is too little information included for residents to offer an educated vote.

Question 6

We support Question 6, which asks for a $10 million bond to protect drinking water and restore wetlands and help municipalities address culverts. With development pressures on the rise, especially here in southern Maine, residents should support any effort to maintain water quality.

Question 7

Like questions 4 and 5, Question 7 offers little in the way of helpful information, and voters should defeat it solely on that basis. It asks voters to approve $7 million “to facilitate the growth of marine businesses and commercial enterprises that create jobs and improve sustainability of the state’s marine economy and related industries through capital investments to be matched by at least another $7 million in private and other funds.” Our reaction to the question is, why is the government choosing to prop up the marine economy. Why not another sector such as the logging and paper industry, or perhaps the artisanal cheese economy or maybe, dare we say, the newspaper industry? Taxes shouldn’t be paid so the government can pick winners and losers. Let the market work itself out.

Overall, after reading the slate of questions, we feel sorry for voters who will once again have to wade through the malarkey – some of it actually misleading – to figure out what they’re voting on. It’s not right that every year, the Legislature pawns these big-ticket items off on an unsuspecting populace, which oftentimes supports programs that might sound good on paper for Maine. In a time when every dollar counts, Mainers should be careful how they contribute to the total indebtedness of the state, which as of Sept. 30 was $449 million. These bonds, some of them worthy and some not, would add about $50 million more.

–John Balentine, managing editor

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