Maine voters to decide on $105 M transportation bond question
July 7, 2020
Voters in Maine will decide next week whether to once again tap bonds to pay for highway repairs.
In November 2019, 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 for 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 this spring to approve LD2134. One day later, Gov. Janet Mills signed it into law.
The governor’s action authorized inclusion of a transportation bond question – Question 2 – on the June 9 state primary ballot. Mills later delayed in-person balloting until July 14 because of coronavirus concerns.
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.
Returning to the well
Bond advocates want to return to the same well this summer to help cover next year’s highway repair program.
This month’s bond question asks Maine voters whether to tap borrowing to cover $90 million in work on highways and bridges. The other $15 million would be applied to ports, rail, aviation and pedestrian projects.
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 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.