Maine ballot includes $105 million transportation bond question

October 31, 2019

Keith Goble

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Voters in Maine will decide next week whether to once again tap bonds for highway repairs.

A year ago, voters approved a $105 million bond to fund transportation projects. During the past 12 years, Ballotpedia reports that Maine voters have approved nine transportation bond issues with a combined total of $778 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.

Passage of the transportation bond initiative in 2018 resulted in $80 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 $20 million. Another $5 million was applied to culvert upgrades.

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

State lawmakers in Maine met for a one-day special session in August to discuss and approve adding the question to the state’s fall ballot about whether to tap bonds for highway repairs.

Question 1

Question 1 on the Nov. 5 ballot will ask voters whether to use bonds once again. Specifically, $105 million in general obligation bonds.

Highways and bridges would receive $85 million. Another $15 million would be applied for work that includes ports and freight rail. The remaining $5 million would be used for culvert upgrades.

Passage of transportation bonding would also draw an estimated $137 million in matching federal and other additional funds.

Opponents 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 fairer, cheaper, and more efficient.

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

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.