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  • Gov. Mills calls legislature back to consider Transportation, Broadband, and LMF Bonds

     By Ramona du Houx

    Maine Governor Mills issued a proclamation on August 19, 2019 calling for a special legislative session to be held at 10:00 a.m. Monday, August 26, 2019 to consider transportation, infrastructure and economic development, environmental protection, and land conservation bonds.

    “With thousands of households and small businesses struggling with poor internet, with Mainers navigating aging roads and bridges, and with the future of Maine’s farm lands and working waterfronts at risk, I am calling a special session to consider bonds that address these issues head-on,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This revised proposal is a fair compromise that should garner bipartisan support in the Legislature. I am asking lawmakers to take advantage of low interest rates, pass these critical bonds and send them to Maine voters for their consideration this November.”

    The state has not enacted any bonds for Reserach and Development since Governor John Baldacci, which helped grow the state's economy with aquaculture, transportation and clean energy breakthroughs. Examples from Univesity of Maine are numerous, like off shore wind floating turbines and the bridge in a back pack. Hopefully, the legislature will consider R&D bonds next year.

    Following discussions with Democratic and Republican lawmakers over the past several months, Governor Janet Mills is presenting a revised $163 million bond proposal to the Legislature for their consideration. 

    “Market conditions suggest the Legislature is well-advised to give voters the option of approving bonds the State could then take to market at the right time,” said Maine State Treasurer Henry Beck. “Historically low interest rates and high demand for municipal bonds put our State as a seller in a strong position to finance projects at extremely low costs.” 

    The proposal will be submitted and voted on in the form of four Governor’s bills. 

    “Between making vital repairs to our roads and bridges to investing in Maine’s future, each of these bonds is important for Maine people and the state to thrive. It’s why I’m looking forward to returning to Augusta on Monday to approve these bond proposals and giving voters the final say on these critical investments,” said President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “To me, the question is simple: do you support giving Maine voters a voice or not? I will proudly be voting to approve each of these bonds and I hope my colleagues in the Legislature will join me.” 

    All bonds passed during the special session day will appear on the ballot this November. The proposal tackles some of Maine’s most pressing issues, such as the state’s aging infrastructure, a lack of rural internet service, the need for improved pollution control, and land conservation through the Lands for Maine’s Future program. The proposal is as follows:

    1. Transportation: This proposal calls for $105 million to upgrade roads, bridges, ports, rail, and air transportation and to repair culverts and restore a commercial fishing wharf.Transportation bonding will draw an estimated $137 million in matching federal and other additional funds. 
    1. Infrastructure and Economic Development: This proposal calls for:
    • $15 million to expand high speed internet access in rural Maine. It is estimated that more than 83,000 households in Maine do not have access to high speed broadband. This bond will draw at least a 3/1 match in federal and private funding.
    • $4 million for capital equipment for career and technical education centers.
    • $4 million to restore and modernize Maine National Guard facilities across the state with an expected 50/50 match.
    1. Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency: This proposal calls for:
    • $5 million to improve wastewater infrastructure at the municipal level to prevent and control pollution, drawing down 150 percent or more in matching funds. 
    • $5 million to support remediation efforts through the Department of Environmental Protection at uncontrolled hazardous sites across the state. 
    • $5 million for the Heating Fuels Efficiency and Weatherization Fund to provide low-interest loans for energy efficiency projects, including heat pumps for residential homeowners.
    1. Land Conservation: This proposal calls for $20 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program to be dispersed over two years to preserve farm land, working waterfronts, and other natural resources. The program has not been funded in eight years but draws significant matching funds and historically has enjoyed overwhelming support at the polls.

    The Fiscal Year 20-21 budget passed along bipartisan lines by two thirds of the Legislature and signed into law earlier this year by Governor Mills anticipates as much as $300 million worth of bonding.