Shared investment in Maine’s economy is critical for success.
It’s not enough to simply talk about the need for new jobs or to lament their absence. If policymakers want things to improve, they have to take action.
The debate over public investments in job creation, at least recently, breaks down along predictable partisan lines. Whether it’s President Obama’s plan for job creation or support for state-level bonding in Maine, there is solid resistance among many Republicans.
But it hasn’t always been this way, and it shouldn’t be this way now.
In Maine during the last statewide election, political rhetoric about the state’s debt burden and bonding reached a crescendo as anti-government and anti-incumbent sentiments sent Democrats packing from the State House.
Despite ongoing partisan warfare, it’s time to return to the consensus position that had developed in Maine over many years. Smart investments, through bonding, pay important dividends for our state’s businesses and workers.
Maine has always been conservative in its bonding and focused on proven winners, such as investments in roads and bridges and clean drinking water. You don’t need to drive far, especially on secondary roads in rural areas to understand the need for a major investment in road improvement.
The proof for the importance of public investment in infrastructure is all around us and includes new and expanded economic opportunity, job creation and growth.
Consider Maine’s three primary ports: Eastport, Searsport and Portland.
All three have benefited from exceptional public investments, and those investments — even as the lingering effects of the recession continue to hurt economic activity and job growth — are paying off in big ways.
In Portland, the state’s new mega-berth opened for business, welcoming its first super-sized cruise ship. The facility, which was built in part by $6.5 million in state bonds, will help the city attract an estimated 90,000 visitors to Maine.
Those visitors, and the dollars they spend, help to create and support jobs throughout Southern Maine. But the impact is much broader. They increase sales, meals and lodging revenues that support education, human services and every other state spending priority through the General Fund.
Portland is far from the only example of bond investments working for Maine.
In Eastport, Maine’s commitment to its three ports is evident. In 2009, state voters approved $4.5 million in bonding to help install a new bulk material handling system in Eastport
And the state has demonstrated a long-term commitment to Searsport and the expansion of the port facilities there, even though progress has been politically difficult.
As the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage begin to lay the ground work for the next legislative session, they should reconsider their position on state bonding for infrastructure.
In the short-term, every part of Maine benefits when jobs are created, and in the long-term our roads, bridges, railroads and ports help our economy grow and support the businesses and industries our state depends upon.
Once upon a time, there was a political consensus that making important investments in the state’s economy was an appropriate role for government. We hope that consensus returns.