ELECTION 2013

Bonds headed for passage, but Maine Maritime Academy borrowing has slim support

Posted Nov. 05, 2013, at 9:17 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 05, 2013, at 11:15 p.m.

Poll Question

BANGOR, Maine — The five bond questions on Tuesday’s statewide ballot were headed toward passage in unofficial results Tuesday night.

The question with the least support from voters was Question 4, a bond that would provide $4.5 million for a new science facility at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Results at 10:30 p.m. reflected reporting from about three-quarters of voting precincts statewide and showed the bond with support from 51 percent of voters.

House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said though the vote was close it was an indication that people recognize the academy’s value.

“MMA is a stand-alone institution; it doesn’t have the facilities that the University of Maine and the community colleges have,” said Fredette. “People of the state of Maine recognized it’s a public institution where 70 percent of the kids are from Maine. They recognized its unique role in Maine and the nation as a maritime academy.”

The largest bond proposal, Question 3, which would provide $100 million for transportation projects, had the most support in early results, hovering around 70 percent. Voters in Maine have approved every transportation bond put before them since at least 1987.

“We’re very pleased that the voters recognized the importance of a well-built, well-maintained infrastructure,” said Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot. “This helps to fund our three-year work plan beginning next spring.”

Question 1, which would provide $14 million in maintenance, repairs and upgrades for the Maine Army National Guard, was passing with 58 percent of the vote late Tuesday evening.

Sen. John Tuttle, D-Sanford, who sponsored the armories bond, said the results were an indication that voters believe “our service members deserve the best.”

“As they train to defend our country, they should be doing so in buildings without asbestos, broken windows and inadequate heating systems,” said Tuttle in a prepared statement. The bond also will be used to purchase land for a firing range, which will end the practice of personnel traveling to Vermont or Massachusetts for target practice.

Question 2, which would provide $15.5 million for laboratory and classroom space upgrades across the University of Maine System statewide, was headed for passage with about 60 percent of the vote in early results.

University of Maine System Chancellor James Page hailed the results.

“These upgrades will create immediate local construction jobs, and they will create a better learning environment for our students to receive education and training for careers that Maine needs, Maine employers have, and Maine students want,” he said in a prepared statement.

Question 5, which would provide $15.5 million for upgrades in the Maine Community College System in order to increase capacity, was passing with 64 percent of votes.

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, sponsored the bond bill.

“This is fantastic news for Maine students and our community colleges,” said Cain in a prepared statement. “Investing in higher education will strengthen our state, our economy and our workforce.”

For months earlier this year, it was unclear whether the five bond questions would make it to Tuesday’s ballot. Gov. Paul LePage has been a fierce opponent of borrowing, arguing for more than two years into his administration that the state’s fiscal status made bonding unwise, to the point that he held up the issuance of bonds approved by voters in 2009 until the Legislature agreed to his plan to pay hospitals some $484 million in past Medicaid debt.

Then, as the Legislature wound down its session in June with leadership talking about delaying another bond package until next year, LePage and Republicans launched an aggressive campaign to bring a $100 million transportation bond to Tuesday’s ballot. They negotiated during the summer months, which resulted in a bipartisan compromise that the Legislature and LePage enacted during a special session in August with just days to spare before the deadline to make the November ballot.

LePage released a video on Monday urging support of some of the bond questions.

“It will create jobs and make Maine more attractive to employers,” said LePage of the transportation bond. “Construction unemployment currently in Maine is at 26 percent. A $100 million bond would support an estimated 2,800 good-paying jobs in construction and related industries.”

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