BY RAMONA DU HOUX
March 26, 2013
Over 3,200 jobs could be created if LePage releases them.
“He’s allowing other states to get ahead of Maine. We lose huge opportunities every day. Holding jobs hostage by not releasing voter-approved bonds is wrong. Whatever the people’s wishes are as governor, you have an obligation to execute the will of the voting public. Holding back bond allocations is holding back economic development,” said former Governor John Baldacci.
Governor Paul LePage’s ransom demand is for the legislature to approve his liquor-revenue/hospital-debt proposal. The voter-approved bond investments would boost Maine’s stagnant economy by putting people back to work immediately, generating more funds to be spent in communities across the state.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 50,000 Mainers remain out of work. Maine’s economy was the only one in New England that shrank last year and one of three states in the nation to have revenues fall below projections. Many attribute these failings to LePage administration policies, like not issuing voter-approved bonds and focusing on cutting MaineCare instead of job creation.
“For more than three years the people of Maine have given the green light to jumpstart our economy and put Mainers back to work. And, instead, the governor is stalling economic opportunity for the state of Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall. “We are calling for an end to the political rhetoric and to set the record straight about putting people back to work.”
LePage has prevented the investment of $296 million in state and federal dollars into Maine’s economy. The voter-approved bonds are from 2010 and 2012.
In a radio appearance, LePage accused lawmakers of “playing games” as he repeatedly promised to veto every bill that crosses his desk, including his own bills, until the legislature passes his liquor contract scheme.
“If the governor is as truly invested in getting more than 3,200 people back to work as he says he is, then he will release the bonds immediately. In fact, he could do it by close of business today,” added Goodall.
The stalled bonds include investments for transportation, higher education, construction, and clean water improvements. In some cases, the projects could make use of a 5-to-1 federal match.
The projects include funding for community and dental health clinics, roads and bridges, conservation, Maine’s working waterfront, redevelopment of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, and historic preservation in Maine’s downtowns.
Communities around the state are awaiting the release of the bonds so they can move forward with stalled economic development projects. Additionally, seaports like Eastport and Searsport could see $1.5 million and $17 million respectively from a 2012 voter-approved bond.
“The construction season is around the corner, and we need to move on these projects,” said Rep. Jeff McCabe.
According to the Associated General Contractors, Maine’s unemployment rates in the construction trades are among the highest in New England.
“The governor claims he is being fiscally responsible by refusing to issue the bonds. I disagree,” said Rep. John Tuttle in an op-ed. “Maine has been responsible with its bonding, spending less than 5 percent of its budget on interest payments. Even the bond rating agencies have praised our bond-borrowing history. Our bond ratings are high, and interest rates on borrowing are low.”
Meanwhile LePage has two bond issues of his own after standing firm for two years not to.