Smart investments are key to our economic success. They can improve our infrastructure, develop our workforce and put Mainers back to work. This week, we will move one step closer to these goals.
The governor and legislative leaders recently came together to agree on a comprehensive $149.5 million jobs bond. It will inject money into Maine’s economy and invest in our transportation infrastructure, higher education and armories.
In this proposal, $100 million would go to roads, bridges, ports and working waterfronts. Higher education facilities would be upgraded with $35.5 million in bonds, and $14 million would go toward renovating and maintaining the armories where our service members train.
This will be good for Maine and good for our economy.
The Legislature will convene soon to take up the bonds package, in time for voters’ approval on Nov. 5. I expect it will garner much support from lawmakers.
As a member of the legislative Transportation Committee, I am thrilled that the bonds proposal has a strong focus on upgrading infrastructure. There is an enormous need for improvements in our roads and bridges, and Maine construction workers can’t afford to not work. The construction industry has some of the highest unemployment rates. Workers want to get their tool belts back on.
While Maine has more highway miles than any other state in New England, our roads have the lowest level of funding per mile. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, one third of our bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete. The average driver in Maine spends $245 in repairs annually because of the state’s poor road conditions.
This package isn’t just about roads and bridges. It’s about the people who use them; it is about the workers who drive to their jobs and the businesses that transport their goods. The bonds package is also about helping Mainers develop their skill sets.
In order for Mainers to remain competitive in the workforce, we must make sure our students have a first-class education.
Colleges in Penobscot County will especially benefit from these bonds. The University of Maine would receive $5.5 million to renovate buildings for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to the University of Maine, more than 70 percent of the campus hasn’t been renovated in a quarter century. Eastern Maine Community College would receive $2.45 million for an addition to Maine Hall.
There are great opportunities from investing in higher education. By renovating our colleges, we can employ carpenters, plumbers, welders and electricians. We also can enroll more students and provide a better education, so workers will have the necessary qualifications for the jobs of tomorrow.
This is a strong bonds proposal and also one that came out of compromise. Democrats weren’t able to get a research and development bond in the package for the November ballot.
We will be pursuing investments in research and development when the Legislature reconvenes in January. This is an area that is crucial to developing fields with highly desirable jobs for our workforce.
In the meantime, I fully expect the $149.5 million bond package compromise to be on the November ballot. Please vote to invest in transportation infrastructure, our higher education institutions and armories. This is a good deal for Maine. It’s just what we need.
Rep. Archie Verow, D-Brewer, is serving his first term in the Maine Legislature. He serves on the Transportation Committee.