Maine Voters Approve Four Out of Five Project Bonds

Wed December 14, 2005 - Northeast Edition

PORTLAND, ME (AP) Gov. John Baldacci said Maine residents sent a clear message by supporting long-term borrowing proposals to fund a range of projects from road construction to land conservation to water system improvements.

“Voters,” he said, “are saying we want to plant the seeds for further growth and prosperity for all. It’s a good night for Maine.”

Mainers on Nov. 8 approved four of five long-term borrowing proposals worth $74 million.

The biggest bond issue, $33.1 million, will go for transportation projects that include improvements to bridges, roads and ports.

Projects to be funded include replacement of the Waldo-Hancock Bridge along U.S. Route 1, reconstruction of more than 100 mi. of highways, and replacement or overhaul of 84 bridges. Airport and public transit improvements were included, as well.

The second-biggest proposal, $20 million, was aimed largely at medical and marine research and helping small companies. More than a third of the money would go to biomedical research and development, a growing segment of the state economy.

The bond package, worth a total of $83 million, went before voters as state general-obligation bond debt stood at $487 million, according to June 30 figures. But treasury figures also show that the state is expected to pay off $180 million in bond debt this fiscal year.

The $83 million was less than half of what Baldacci initially proposed to boost the economy, make transportation improvements and conserve land. Negotiations with Republicans, who wanted to limit borrowing amid concerns about state spending, resulted in the final figure.

Baldacci, noted that no new bonds have been authorized in two years, said the state is ahead of the national average in its debt-to-revenue ratio.