Transportation bonds question on Maine’s June ballot

May 2020

Keith Goble

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Voters in Maine are set to decide this summer whether to once again tap bonds for highway repairs.

In November, voters approved a $105 million bond to fund transportation projects. During the past 13 years, Ballotpedia reports that Maine voters have approved nine transportation bond issues with a combined total of $883 million in bonds.

The money is used to support the Maine Department of Transportation’s work plan. The agency relies on the funds to cover the annual cost of road and bridge maintenance and repairs.

The state Legislature voted in mid-March to approve LD2134. The following day, Gov. Janet Mills signed it into law.

The governor’s action authorizes inclusion of a transportation bond question on the June 9 congressional primary ballot.

Passage of the transportation bond initiative in fall 2019 resulted in $85 million in general obligation bonds for construction and maintenance of highways and bridges. The state’s ports, harbors, transit and freight rail, and bicycle and pedestrian trails received $15 million. Another $5 million was applied to culvert upgrades.

Bond advocates want to return to the same well this summer to help cover next year’s highway repair program.

This year’s transportation bond question will ask voters whether to tap borrowing to cover $90 million in work on highways and bridges. The other $15 million would be applied for work on other modes of transportation.

Passage of transportation bonding would also draw an estimated $275 million in matching federal and other additional funds.

Critics say it’s not good business to rely on borrowing to pay for projects. Instead, they say the state would be better served to increase the tax rates on gas and diesel to pay for needed work and to match federal funds. They say the tried-and-true method of raising revenue is more equitable, cheaper and more efficient.

The state’s 30-cent excise rate on gas and 31.2-cent rate on diesel are unchanged since 2011. LL

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.