Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a $20 million bond for research and development. He withheld his signature from four other bonds approved by the Legislature last week.
The R&D borrowing package would fund research and development investments awarded to for-profit and nonprofit labs, schools and even businesses on a competitive bid basis for capital investment, and would be administered by the Maine Technology Institute.
LePage vetoed it late Friday. In his veto message, the governor said, “If the Legislature truly believes we should spend $20 million on research and development, then we should reduce spending elsewhere in the budget and pay for it out of the General Fund.
“Second, the majority of the funds from these bonds in the past have gone to government programs and not-for-profits. Taxpayer dollars should go towards R&D only when we can demonstrate a specific return on that investment. That return must be measured in taxes and jobs. Both of those rightly come in the private sector.”
“This veto is shortsighted and bad for business,” Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House Democratic leader, said in a statement. “The governor is shortchanging future job growth and innovation in our state. Investments in R&D have paid off. They boost business, create jobs, and help our fishermen, farmers, and boat builders.”
The other bonds passed by lawmakers are:
• $51 million to fund transportation projects, including highway and bridge repairs.
• $11.3 million in higher education funds to pay for infrastructure investments at the University of Maine System, the state’s community colleges and Maine Maritime Academy.
• $8 million in water and sewer infrastructure projects.
• $5 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program, which purchases land parcels to set aside for conservation, forestry and recreational use.
These four can go to voters without his signature.
“While these bond proposals were authorized by legislators, it does not mean that we need to spend the money. I cannot personally support any of these bonds and will not vote for them at the polls in November,” LePage said in a statement. “Even with the voters’ authorization to borrow this money, my administration will not spend it until we’ve lowered our debt significantly. That could be several years.”
All five bond issues passed the House and Senate with support from more than two-thirds of lawmakers, the threshold legislators would need to override a LePage veto.
Earlier this week, legislative leaders set aside May 31 as a day for lawmakers to consider vetoes from the governor. At that time, he had not issued any after a short legislative session earlier this month.
The governor also vetoed bills to allow fraternal and veterans organizations to have slot machines and to allow the Maine Governmental Facilities Authority to borrow money for courts.