Maine voters approve transportation bonds, again

July 15, 2020

Keith Goble

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Voters in Maine this week approved a ballot question to once again tap bonds for highway repairs.

Bond advocates earlier this year moved a bill through the Legislature to ask voters to return to the same well to help cover next year’s highway repair program.

Question 2 on yesterday’s ballot asked voters whether to tap borrowing to cover $90 million in work on highways and bridges. The other $15 million will be applied to ports, rail, aviation and pedestrian projects.

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

The transportation bonds question was approved with 77% voting in favor.

Critics say it’s not good business to rely on borrowing to pay for projects.

Instead, they say the state would be better served long-term 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.

Supporters add that the bond passage will help the state cover costs for projects with fuel tax revenues down during the coronavirus.

Not even a year ago, voters approved another transportation funding bond.

In November 2019, voters approved a $105 million bond to fund transportation projects. During the past 13 years, Ballotpedia reports that Maine voters now have approved 10 transportation bond issues with a combined total of $988 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 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.

More Land Line coverage of news from Maine is available.

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.