AUGUSTA, Maine — A package of six bond bills totaling $50 million sailed through the Legislature on Thursday night en route to consideration by Gov. Paul LePage and voters on the November statewide ballot.
The build-up to the end of the legislative session in recent days has focused on Republicans and Democrats reaching consensus on an acceptable borrowing package. Despite Thursday night’s lopsided votes in favor of the bond proposals, their fate rests in the hands of LePage, who has a fickle history when it comes to state borrowing. LePage has not said whether he supports another borrowing package.
However, all of the bond bills received votes well in excess of two-thirds majorities, which is necessary for both ballot measures and to override potential gubernatorial vetoes. There was very little debate over the borrowing bills in the House and none in the Senate on Thursday as lawmakers sent them through as some of their final acts of the 126th Legislature.
The six bond bills, which were settled upon Wednesday night by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, included the following:
• LD 1827, a $12 million bond for small-business financial aid through the Finance Authority of Maine to fund two established programs that provide start-up and expansion capital to small businesses.
• LD 1756, a $10 million bond to fund a competitive grant program for the development of a biometric research facility (Bar Harbor’s Jackson Laboratory is likely the only company that will apply).
• LD 1455, a $10 million bond to fund various water initiatives, including the construction of culverts to aid fish passage, clean-water systems and conservation work.
• LD 1861, an $8 million bond to fund efforts by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assist farmers and forestry.
• LD 1709, a $7 million bond to fund competitive grants to boost the state’s marine economy, including lobster and seafood processing.
• LD 1223, a $3 million bond to fund biotechnology workforce training and drug research and development.
House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, hailed the votes as bipartisan triumphs.
“Democrats and Republicans came together to make critical investments in our economy,” he said in a written statement. “This is a positive step toward boosting jobs by building on the best of Maine.”