Maine Lawmakers Approve $150M Borrowing Package

Fri June 19, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Francis X. Quinn




AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) Some testy moments — particularly over highway maintenance options that had Democrats and Republicans at odds — marked the final hours of this year’s regular session of the Maine Legislature.

But Gov. John Baldacci focused on the positive in closing remarks, crediting lawmakers for conducting themselves with “goodwill and openness’’ throughout a session that began in earnest in January.

“The people of Maine don’t expect us to always agree, but they do expect us to work together and get things done. You have done that,’’ Baldacci said in prepared remarks.

The Legislature’s final day offered occasional contrasts.

Sharp debate over transportation project funding started first thing in the morning in the House of Representatives on June 12. The Senate produced a similarly emotional series of tirades later that night.

In between, idled and waiting for new amendments to take up for voting, some lawmakers played Wiffleball on the south lawn of the State House.

Before concluding this year’s session, Maine lawmakers overwhelmingly approved $150 million in new borrowing. Baldacci was expected to sign the legislation soon. Voters will get the final say.

A November vote is planned for a $71 million bond for transportation system projects. Then, in June 2010, voters are expected to consider a $25 million economic development bond, an $18 million energy bond, a $10 million bond to pay for clean drinking water, wastewater and environmental cleanup, and a $15.5 million higher education bond.

Finally, in November 2010, state ballots would include a $10 million conservation bond that contains $7.5 million for Land for Maine’s Future program.

“This package is timely, targeted and affordable,’’ House Speaker Hannah Pingree said.

“We need to ensure that our transportation infrastructure is modern and safe and we need to ensure that we are on the leading edge of renewable energy development. This package focuses on job creation and business investment,’’ said Pingree, D-North Haven.

Republicans, outnumbered in both the House and Senate, took credit for keeping down the size of the borrowing package, noting it is less than half of what the governor proposed and $125 million less than a proposal from Democratic lawmakers.

“This is a responsible and affordable bonding package which puts money toward fixing our roads, maintaining clean water, and developing further energy efficiencies which will save us money in the years to come,’’ Senate Minority Leader Kevin Raye, R-Perry, and assistant Senate Republican leader Jon Courtney, R-Sanford, said in a joint statement.

Majority Democrats said the projects envisioned in the bond package were desirable in themselves.

“These bonds will put thousands of people to work building and improving Maine’s infrastructure,’’ said Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro.

“Whether it is an investment in our transportation network or weatherization, this package is a vital component of the long term strategy to grow Maine’s economy,’’ Mitchell said.