Maine mayors make pitch for their own $85 million borrowing package

Posted April 08, 2013, at 5:53 p.m.
Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta
Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta

AUGUSTA, Maine — Mayors from some of Maine’s largest cities gathered Monday morning in Augusta to propose an $85 million bond package they said would trigger economic development and improve the state’s economy.

The bond package, which is being sponsored by Senate Assistant Republican Leader Roger Katz of Augusta, the former mayor of that city, adds to numerous borrowing proposals already forwarded by a range of legislators and Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.

“With our economy still struggling, investing in Maine people only makes sense,” said Bangor Mayor Nelson Durgin, who joined Katz and several other mayors at the Augusta City Center to advocate for the new measure. “A comprehensive bond package that invests in our communities, advances training programs for a skilled workforce, upgrades our infrastructure and provides for our drinking water and wastewater facilities will not only strengthen our state’s economy, but our municipalities as well.”

The bond proposal includes $45 million for education, research and development; $20 million for transportation projects and $10 million for the environment.

Included in the $45 million for education, research and development is $20 million for the Communities for Maine’s Future program, which is designed to make funds available for downtown development projects.

“The Communities for Maine’s Future program is a proven and tested initiative,” Augusta Mayor Bill Stokes said in a release announcing the bond package proposal. “It will support creative projects at communities large and small around the state.”

The Communities for Maine’s Future program awards funding on a competitive basis and requires applying municipalities to provide a 100 percent match. Maine voters in a 2010 bond question approved funding for the program, which issued awards to 11 municipalities. However, Gov. Paul LePage has yet to authorize release of those bonds.

The mayors who assembled Monday also voiced support for two bills related to municipal revenue sharing, which LePage proposes to suspend during the next two fiscal years to help balance the state budget. Public hearings on the bills, LD 713 sponsored by Katz and LD 940, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, are scheduled for Friday before the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

“Revenue sharing is an important part of municipal budgets for all Maine communities,” Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett said in the release. “These two measures will restore the state’s historic commitment to revenue sharing.”

The Legislature is expected to take up the bond proposals in the coming weeks.

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