By Ramona du Houx

May 25, 2012

bc0d855f956b3ea0-cap2The Capitol at night in Augusta, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

“Why is the Governor turning away opportunity? Blocking targeted investments in R&D will keep Maine at the bottom,” said Senator Justin Alfond, the Assistant Senate Democratic leader.

Governor Paul LePage will let four of the five bond proposals go to Maine voters in November without his signature. But the Governor chose to veto LD 225, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue in the Amount of $20,000,000 To Fund Research and Development. The State of Maine 125th Legislature presented the Governor the bond proposals last week for his consideration.

The vetoed bond issue for research and development remains a vital component for innovation and long term economic growth. Maine R&D funds have spurred inventions that have created companies in the state. The bridge-n-a-backpack invented at the UMaine’s composite center is a prime example of how R&D funding helped develop this innovation. Now a company is selling the bridges across America with prospects in Russia.
The modest $20,000,000 bond would go a long way to give scientists and companies funding to develop new inventions.

The legislature is due to return May 31 to deal with the veto. LePage also decided Friday to withhold his signature on the following bonds:

LD 359, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Wastewater and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Funds
LD 852, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support Maine’s Natural Resource-based Economy
LD 874, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for Higher Education
LD 894, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Transportation Infrastructure To Meet the Needs of the Business Sector and To Create Jobs.

“While these bond proposals were authorized by Legislators, it does not mean that we need to spend the money. I cannot personally support any of these bonds and will not vote for them at the polls in November,” said Governor LePage. “Even with the voters’ authorization to borrow this money, my Administration will not spend it until we’ve lowered our debt significantly. That could be several years.”

“This veto is shortsighted and bad for business,” said Rep. Emily Cain, the House Democratic leader. “The governor is shortchanging future job growth and innovation in our state. Investments in R&D have paid off. They boost business, create jobs, and help our fisherman, farmers, and boat builders.”

Maine has lost more than 1,000 jobs since 2011 and was recently rated 50th for personal income growth according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“To encourage prosperity and ingenuity we have to prepare our state, our economy and our people for the demands of the future. We should be doing all we can to encourage innovation, create job opportunities, and create the success stories of tomorrow. With this veto, the Governor, yet again, is turning his back on what’s best for the people of Maine,” said Alfond.

The Maine Technology Asset Fund was created to field grant requests for innovation leveraging public and private dollars. Winning applications are those that join public, private and educational endeavors.

Jackson Labs has been a regular beneficiary of state investment, and it has developed into one of the world’s premier biomedical research facilities. Targeted investments in boat building and marine research and development have established the state as an international leader in those industries as well.

The governor also vetoed two other measures, LD 1469, related to gaming opportunities for fraternal organizations, and LD 807, related to municipal bonding authority.

In his veto message, Governor LePage highlights two issues that led to his decision.

“First, we are using debt to pay operational costs. If the Legislature truly believes we should spend $20 million on research and development, then we should reduce spending elsewhere in the budget and pay for it out of the General Fund,” the Governor wrote, “Second, the majority of the funds from these bonds in the past have gone to government programs and not-for-profits. Taxpayer dollars should go towards R&D only when we can demonstrate a specific return on that investment. That return must be measured in taxes and jobs. Both of those rightly come in the private sector.”

Additionally, Governor LePage signed the following three bills:

LD 849, An Act To Provide Tax Relief for Maine’s Citizens by Reducing Income Taxes
LD 905, An Act Regarding the Distribution and Sale of Spirits
LD 1750, An Act To Create the Maine Board of Tax Appeals

He vetoed two additional bills which include:

LD 807, An Act To Limit the Bonding Authority of the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority to Court Facility Projects –
LD 1469, An Act To Increase Gaming Opportunities for Charitable Fraternal and Veterans’ Organizations –