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Support for bipartisan Maine borrowing package is key to Maine’s future

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
A noticeable bow in the outside beam of the Union St. bridge can be seen above a car on I-95 southbound around noon Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.
By Dana Connors, Special to the BDN

In an impressive and productive show of bipartisanship, Gov. Paul LePage and leaders in the Maine Legislature have come to an agreement on a major investment in Maine’s economy that will spur economic growth and development, create much-needed and well-paying jobs across our great state, and help develop the workforce of Maine’s future.

Putting politics aside, the compromise borrowing package agreed to by LePage, Senate President Justin Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves and Republican leaders in Maine’s House and Senate, and approved by the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee last week, will inject critical dollars into Maine’s economy if approved by voters in a referendum vote this November.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is in full support of the borrowing package and encourages all Maine voters to support this bipartisan proposal, as well.

The governor and leaders in the Legislature have agreed on a total of $149.5 million of investment in state infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, ports, railroads and working waterfronts, as well as our state university and community college systems. Both areas of investment are key to growing Maine’s economy, creating quality jobs, ensuring job security and stability, keeping Maine competitive nationally and developing a strong workforce for Maine’s future.

The $100 million proposed allocation for our state’s infrastructure is needed as soon as possible.

Maine drivers spend on average more than $300 each year repairing their vehicles due to damage by our crumbling roads. The American Society for Civil Engineers recently gave our infrastructure a C- grade. Bridges and roads all over our state are in disrepair, and, if approved by voters in November, this money will be a wise investment, saving millions over the long term as opposed to delaying improvements.

Likewise, Maine’s ports and working waterfronts are in need of improvements that will boost economic development in a critical area of the state’s economy. These improvements will also reduce the cost of transportation of goods and services statewide, making Maine more competitive.

More than $35 million in borrowing in the compromise bond proposal is slated for improvements within Maine’s education system, the foundation of our workforce here in Maine.

For example, Northern Maine Community College and Eastern Maine Community College would receive the necessary funds to expand, renovate and increase learning facilities for their students. The University of Maine in Fort Kent would have the funds to expand its nursing laboratory, and the University of Maine in Presque Isle would also have the funds to expand and improve its laboratories.

It is important to note that included in the $35 million targeting for higher education are upgrades to Maine’s STEM facilities. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is a huge part of Maine’s workforce of the future, and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce supports any and all investments to improve STEM education. The proposed bonds offer a tremendous opportunity to upgrade existing facilities and make them more relevant, competitive and cutting-edge, developing skilled workers right here in Maine and giving our students a leg up when they graduate and enter the workforce.

Maine is in a good position to borrow now. We must not delay approving these bonds.

The investments will grow our economy, create well-paying jobs, offer job security and stability to many Maine workers, improve our educational facilities, as well as develop our workforce and make critical improvements to our state and its economy. Borrowing the needed money to invest now in Maine’s future will also be cost-effective, saving millions of dollars down the road.

This bipartisan compromise borrowing agreement deserves and needs our support this November. The time is now to invest in a promising future for the great state of Maine and its hard-working people.

Dana Connors is president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

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