LIMESTONE, Maine — A defense spending bill that passed the U.S. House this week contains $50 million for continued maintenance of Humvees at the Maine Military Authority, according to Sen. Susan Collins.
If the money is retained in the Senate version of the spending bill — which may be voted on today — and if the final version is signed by President Barack Obama, the money will help preserve 175 jobs at the Limestone plant and boost the area’s economy.
Collins, a Maine Republican and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, made the announcement Wednesday. The funding, part of the fiscal year 2010 Department of Defense spending bill, includes more than $100 million for defense-related earmarks to benefit Maine and national security.
Kevin Kelley, spokesman for Collins, said that while the legislation still must be passed by the Senate and signed by Obama, the senator was confident that “this is going to be real.”
“She worked hard to get this through and this is going to be reality,” Kelley said.
In a 395-34 roll call vote, the House passed the measure Wednesday evening. Kelley said that the Senate likely would vote on the legislation today.
The Maine Military Authority employs an estimated 380 workers who refurbish vehicles for the Army National Guard.
Like most state and federal facilities, the authority faced a reduction in funding because of the downturn in the economy. The facility had a $37 million decrease in funding this year compared with last year.
Initially, $30 million had been budgeted for the facility in 2010. News of the funding decrease prompted whispers about potential layoffs.
Officials at the authority began working with the state’s congressional delegation to secure the additional $20 million to sustain jobs at the facility.
“In these tough budget times, securing this funding was not easy,” Collins said in a statement. “But as a native of Aroostook County, I understand the enormous hardships that County residents are facing during this deep recession, and that is why I fought so hard to ensure that this funding was included in the final defense spending bill.”
Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat whose 2nd Congressional District includes Aroostook County, said he wrote a letter in August supporting the additional $20 million in funding.
The funding, he said, would “ensure the delivery of quality fighting vehicles for the National Guard and ensure the viability of an extraordinary team of craftsmen and a cost-efficient production facility.”
Tim Corbett, the authority’s executive director, said Thursday that he had heard the good news. He noted that it already had been passed on to the Limestone employees.
“This is a very satisfying result,” he said. “We have worked with the congressional delegation on this for four months and are so pleased with the results. Our representatives worked so hard on our behalf.
“This is the best Christmas gift for our employees,” he said. “Today, we are issuing letters to the employees telling them that their names have been removed from the potential layoff list.”