Maine voters to decide Nov. 2 on transportation bonds

October 21, 2021

Keith Goble


In less than two weeks, Maine voters will get another opportunity to tap bonds for highway repairs.

Question 2 was cleared for inclusion on the Nov. 2 ballot after Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill to again ask voters to return to the same well to help cover next year’s highway repair program.

‘Groundhog Day’

As recently as summer 2020, voters approved $105 million in borrowing to fund transportation projects. Most of the amount, $90 million, is for work on highways and bridges. The other $15 million is applied to ports, rail, aviation and pedestrian projects.

Over the past 14 years, Ballotpedia reports that Maine voters have approved 11 transportation bond issues with a combined total of $989 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.

Returning to the same well

Gov. Mills signed LD1702 to authorize a question be added to the Nov. 2, ballot about whether to tap borrowing to cover $100 million in transportation work. Roads and bridges would receive $85 million, and another $15 million would be applied to ports, rail, aviation and pedestrian projects.

Passage of transportation bonding also would draw an estimated $253 million in matching federal and other additional funds.

Critics say a new approach would be a better approach.

Opponents of borrowing 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. LL

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