AUGUSTA—The Maine Senate today passed five jobs bond bills supporting the state’s public investments in transportation, research and development, roads, bridges and rail, educational infrastructure, water and wastewater treatment, and land conservation.
“The bond bills will give our economy a much needed shot in the arm,” said Sen. Dawn Hill of York, who serves on the Appropriations committee. “In the last year, Maine people have seen a continued drain on our jobs and income. Responsible bonding is a sure-fire way to get people back to work.”
Lawmakers passed a research and development bond aimed at boosting business, creating jobs, and helping transition Maine industries and Maine’s workforce for the future. Specifically, investment in R&D will continue funding programs helping Maine turn the corner from relying on low-tech jobs toward jobs in biotech, marine science, innovative agriculture, composites and energy.
“Targeted investments in research and development are vital to long-term economic growth and job creation for this state,” said Senator Seth Goodall of Richmond. “Prosperity for our state relies on strengthening traditional Maine industries, like boat building, and expanding industries for our future.”
Other bond measures, including LD 894, a transportation bond measure, and LD 874 an educational infrastructure bond, both received overwhelmingly support.
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. According to Department of Labor statistics, Maine has lost 500 construction jobs from February to March this year alone.
“Mainers deserve more than lip service. We need real investments that will improve our roads, bridges, and classrooms,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland. “These public investments provide an opportunity to create jobs, grow our economy, and improve our state’s infrastructure.”
Two other bond measures received initial approval by the Maine Senate including a water quality and wastewater treatment bond that will help municipalities upgrade or expand essential facilities and the Land for Maine’s Future Fund bond, a fund that preserves working waterfront property and farms. Earlier today, Republican lawmakers rejected two Democratic bond proposals that would have revitalized Maine’s downtown communities and increased energy efficiency.
Alfond added that Maine voters “deserve an opportunity to decide on the investment priorities for this state”.
Fiscal experts from the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review told lawmakers that the state had the capacity to make public investment in a bond package for voters to approve.
According to the fiscal office’s analysis, debt service payments from 2013 to 2015 will decline by nearly $30 million, lowering the state’s payments on debt and increasing the capacity to borrow. Maine has a track record of conservative bonding and has historically paid down its debt quickly. The state typically bonds for 10 years, not 20 or 30 as other states do. Debt service is typically between 4-7 percent of the General Fund.