AUGUSTA — The Legislature has sent Gov. Paul LePage a pair of bills asking voters in November to approve up to $170 million in new state debt that would be used to fix roads and bridges and expand or renovate classrooms and student labs in the University of Maine System and Maine’s community college network.

The votes on the bonding measures came in the midst of a flurry of legislative activity Monday, when lawmakers took override votes on 43 vetoes issued by LePage. The governor will now have 10 days to consider the bonding bills, which passed both chambers with the two-thirds majorities that would be required to override a veto.

The borrowing, if enacted, would have to go to voters for final ratification in November, but passage of the bills Monday sent a wave of relief through Maine’s construction industry, which has said the bills will support more than 3,000 jobs.

The Legislature is now in its eighth month of meetings, yet it still left significant work unfinished when it recessed late Monday for another 10 days, with a scheduled return the week of July 23.

Still on the table are bills that would align Maine’s income tax code with the new federal code, and a bill to correct a previously enacted error in law that’s prohibiting Maine Clean Election Act candidates from getting the campaign funds they are entitled to under the law. The Legislature may also have to take additional veto override votes on bills sent to LePage on Monday, including one that would eliminate the mandate that schools award proficiency-based high school diplomas.

On the bonding bills, the House voted 135-8 to borrow $49 million for the University of Maine System and $15 million for the community colleges. Both packages would leverage additional private and federal matching funds.


“This bond is an investment that will cost less than a single new high school, but it’s one that will surely bring more students, jobs, investment and opportunities to our public university and community college campuses,” said the sponsor, Rep. Eric Jorgensen, D-Portland. “Economic development requires a well-trained workforce, and these campuses are our primary tool for creating that workforce.”

The transportation bond, which passed unanimously in both chambers, would provide $106 million, including $80 million for roads and bridges, $20 million for ports, harbors, rail and airport improvements, $5 million for culverts that will be made available to local cities in towns, and $1 million for a pier improvement at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

Partisan divisions are blocking agreement on providing funding for Clean Election Act candidates, as well as a tax conformity bill that would align Maine’s income tax code with the new federal code. The two bills have become linked politically and are likely to be the subject of political horse-trading when lawmakers return.

Democrats, who hold a narrow majority in the House and control the flow of bills to the chamber for a vote, are sitting on the tax conformity bill, a measure that conservatives and LePage want passed because it provides about $40 million in tax breaks to businesses and individuals in Maine.

Leaders in the Republican minority caucus, which is withholding its votes on the Clean Election funding fix, criticized Democratic leaders in a prepared statement Tuesday for holding out on tax conformity.

“Conforming Maine’s tax code to the new federal law is fundamentally about our businesses being more competitive in New England and nationally,” said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport. “Punishing 1.3 million people in order to secure more taxpayer money for politicians’ campaigns is just wrong.”


But Democrats said House Republicans were breaking their word on what should be a routine fix to a simple drafting error.

“Voters have approved Maine’s Clean Elections law by strong margins at the ballot box twice, and last year’s budget agreement included a deal to fund it,” said House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, D-Belfast. “To me, it’s a matter of being true to our word.”

Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, the assistant majority leader, said Republicans believe delaying the Clean Election funds would hurt Democrats in the fall elections more than Republicans.

“It’s clear they believe gutting the Clean Elections system will give them a fundraising advantage so they can be free to raise money from corporations and the special interests that fund their campaigns,” Golden said. “Fortunately for the people of Maine, as has been proven time and time again, money isn’t everything in politics.”

In addition to the two borrowing packages approved by the Legislature on Monday, in June lawmakers approved a $30 million bond proposal that would go to voters in November aimed at upgrading aging sewer infrastructure and wastewater treatment plants. Separately, LePage has stalled the sale of bonds previously approved by voters for highway and bridge upgrades, putting in jeopardy some Maine Department of Transportation projects already underway.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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