AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday that he and legislative leaders are “all pretty much in the same place” on the importance of what has been a contentious bond package after a meeting in Senate President Justin Alfond’s office Wednesday morning.
LePage told reporters that he will support a borrowing package of up to $150 million under the conditions that the package be ready in time for a November referendum — including enough lead time for service members stationed overseas to vote absentee — and that any initiatives injected into the package by legislators be aimed at infrastructure improvements.
“As long as it’s in the infrastructure base and it’s reasonable, we’ll look at it,” LePage said to reporters outside the State House.
LePage and Republicans in recent weeks have pressured Democrats to advance the governor’s $100 million transportation bond proposal through the Legislature in time for the package to appear on this November’s statewide ballot. Democrats have said they are acting in accord with an agreement they made with Republicans late in the legislative session that the bond proposal would be debated and put together over the summer.
The Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for assembling the bond package, met Tuesday to discuss the issue but took no action. At issue is whether the bonds will appear on the November ballot, which the Department of Transportation argues is necessary in order to support its long-term work plans, or next June. Along with LePage’s $100 million proposal, the committee is considering dozens of other bond proposals that together are worth more than $1 billion.
Republicans, who have asked for an up-or-down vote on LePage’s proposal alone, have alleged that Democrats won’t do that because they want to lump millions of dollars in other spending into the package.
LePage’s statement that he would support up to $150 million in borrowing represents the first time he has publicly put a number on the level of state borrowing he would support. Past that, LePage said he is waiting to see what legislators come up with. He said he didn’t know what that package would look like.
“That’s their deal,” said LePage. “I don’t run the Legislature. … We’re moving forward and they’re getting some work done. It was productive. I just gave them ideas. I told them there are limits that I have. I do know that it’s going to be more than transportation.”
LePage said he was hopeful that a package would be forthcoming “in the next few days.”
Democratic leaders declined to comment on the issue Wednesday morning. Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said the meeting was attended by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, as well as various members of their staffs.