Democrats say 2 new LePage vetoes put lakes, jobs at serious risk

Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe
Posted April 30, 2014, at 4:48 p.m.
Last modified April 30, 2014, at 5:06 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage vetoed two more bills Wednesday that would protect Maine lakes from pollution and strengthen a revolving loan program for small business.

The two new vetoes brings the total that face the Legislature on Thursday to 48.

LePage said in his veto letter for LD 1744, An Act to Protect Maine Lakes, that the bill has “a number of major flaws,” including a provision that bans the use of fertilizers within 25 feet of a great pond.

“In addition to adding yet another restriction on Maine people, the bill would create a massive enforcement burden on the Department of Environmental Protection — monitoring and enforcement of all of the land within 25 feet of the shoreline of every major lake in Maine — without providing a single dollar to carry out that work,” wrote LePage, who added that restricting fertilizer use near waterways could stunt the growth of plants that help prevent erosion.

LD 1744 passed with a unanimous vote in the Senate and a 119-24 vote in the House.

Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine reacted to the veto with anger.

“This veto is an insult to the thousands of Maine people who devote so much of their time working to protect the water quality of Maine’s lakes, and to every Mainer who wants to pass clean lakes on to future generations,” said Didisheim in a written statement. “Now is not a time to take the water quality in Maine’s lakes for granted. A recent report shows that the water quality in Maine’s lakes is deteriorating, with some lakes close to a tipping point that could result in rapid loss of water quality.”

Didisheim’s organization says the bill, as approved by the Legislature, is similar to new laws passed in Vermont and New Hampshire in the past few years.

LePage targeted Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, in the veto letter, calling McCabe “among the most vocal critics of the DEP.”

“Perhaps he feels that DEP staff should volunteer their free time on evenings and weekends in order to carry out his whims?” wrote LePage.

McCabe has long argued that drainage of fertilizers into Maine lakes causes algae blooms.

“Given the bill’s overwhelming support from members of his own party and how he used his veto pen to personally attack me, it’s clear that the governor is not standing on solid policy footing,” said McCabe in a written response.

LePage on Wednesday also vetoed LD 1043, An Act to Improve the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program, which was approved 138-7 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. It would alter laws regarding the Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program, which is administered by the Finance Authority of Maine. Among other things, it would increase maximum loan amounts and expands the types and sizes of businesses that are eligible. The bill would not take effect until the Legislature allocates at least $1 million to support the revolving loan program.

In his veto letter, LePage said he supports helping businesses, but not with a revolving loan fund.

“An issue I have with this bill is the continued reliance of this program on borrowing money on the backs of the Maine taxpayer,” wrote the governor. “If this program is worthy, let’s fund it properly and not pay interest on funds to help Maine businesses.”

House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who sponsored the bill, said LePage’s vetoes of LD 1043 and an earlier veto of LD 1827, a bill that would ask voters for approval to borrow $12 million to support business and economic development, were short-sighted and will prevent the creation of thousands of jobs. LePage signed three other bond bills into law and let two pass without his signature. Voters will decide on the bonds in November.

“That bond was the very top priority of the Workforce and Economic Future Committee,” said Berry, referring to a temporary legislative committee created by Democrats last year. “If a good CEO for our state wanted to choose any of these six bonds, this should have been the last. … He just vetoed a bill that would create the most jobs of all of those bills we’ve seen in this Legislature.”

Berry said he expected the vetoes of these two bills to be overridden, which requires two-thirds majorities of both chambers in the Legislature.

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