Maine lawmakers pass $105M highway bond package

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers on Monday approved asking voters in November to weigh in on $105 million in proposed borrowing for roads and bridges, but they failed to agree on $58 million in additional borrowing.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills called the special session to consider borrowing proposals that lawmakers were unable to agree upon in the regular legislative session. Lawmakers also enacted a bill to allow primary voters to rank candidates in the March presidential primary.

Both proposals now head to Mills’ desk.

Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note warned that next year’s entire highway repair program is at risk without the highway borrowing package, which would fund building and improvement of roads, bridges, railroads, airports, transit and ports. The highway bond proposal would match $137 million in federal and other funds and result in roughly $25 million in interest over a 10-year period.

Republicans blocked additional bond proposals for economic development, environmental protection and land conservation. They said the Legislature could consider them in January, and voters could end up voting on them in March.

“In fact, while we wait to make a more informed decision, interest rates are likely to go down, reducing the cost of these bonds by the time we consider them,” said Republican Sen. Dana Dow in a floor speech.

Democrats, meanwhile, criticized Republicans for preventing voters in November from weighing in on additional borrowing for programs including career and technical education.

“I am deeply disappointed that Republicans denied sending this question out to the voters, but I will be back next year to work hard to secure badly needed funding for this popular and effective program,” said Democratic Sen. Cathy Breen, referring to the Land for Maine’s Future program.

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