AUGUSTA

The Maine Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a bill that will revive $6.5 million in voter approved Land for Maine’s Future conservation bonds. Now, it appears the funding will be released, but without the governor’s signature.

While the bonds were approved by voters in 2010, they were allowed to expire last year after Gov. Paul LePage refused to issue them.

More than 30 LMF approved projects were stalled due to the governor’s decision, affecting 50,000 acres of conservation, recreation, forest and agricultural land located in more than three dozen communities and 13 counties in Maine.

An amendment from Rep. Martin Grohman, D-Biddeford, had stripped the original text of the bill, LD 1454, and replaced it with a five-year reauthorization of bonds approved by voters in 2010.

Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, voiced her thoughts on the outcome of the vote.

“These valuable conservation projects have waited a long time for funding that was promised, but needlessly delayed,” Breen said. “This vote will put them back on track, giving them the go-ahead to protect valuable natural resources in my community for generations.”

The bill will be sent to LePage, who will have 10 days to either sign the document into law, veto it or let it pass into law without his signature. It appears that the last scenario will be most likely.

Speaking on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Maine Calling,” the governor said he would “absolutely not” sign the bill into law.

“The problem with The Land for Maine’s Future is … they take all this property off the tax rolls and then they come to the state and ask the state to buy the land and pay for it,” LePage said. “And then they ask the state for more revenue sharing, because they don’t have enough money and they don’t want us to raise their taxes. You can’t have it both ways.”

Voter-approved LMF funds had been caught in a tug-of-war between the governor and the Legislature. LePage refused to release the bonds as leverage in order to get the Legislature to expand the state’s timber harvesting program.

“I’m not a supporter of Land for Maine’s Future,” LePage said. “We have just short of a million acres of land on the books now. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the state to buy all the state’s land.”



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