BANGOR, Maine — Based on unofficial results, voters approved $50 million in state borrowing included in six bond questions that appeared on Tuesday’s ballot.
With 85 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, the Bangor Daily News projects voters approved all six bond questions on the state ballot.
The bonds come as the state has borrowed little in the last few years, mostly because of Gov. Paul LePage’s resistance to approve bonds. As the governor has that power and LePage won re-election, it’s unclear when voter-approved funds would be disbursed.
During his first gubernatorial term, LePage delayed release of voter-approved bonds.
Each bond question generated little specific opposition in the lead-up to the campaign, but several opponents in the Legislature objected to the borrowing in general. Republican Sen. Doug Thomas of Ripley was one such opponent, opposing Question 7 because he felt such a small amount should be paid for in the state’s biennial budget.
This newspaper endorsed passage of all six of the bond questions that amounted to $50 million total and that supporters said would benefit the state’s economy.
Here’s a summary of the bond questions with results as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Question 2: Bugs and agriculture
Question 2 asked voters to let the state borrow $8 million in order to build a new laboratory at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Orono to help those in the state’s agriculture industry diagnose plant and animal diseases.
Question 3: Small business
Question 3 asked voters for two batches of borrowing for loan programs administered by the Finance Authority of Maine to help businesses acquire bank loans and to give more money to rural development agencies that, in turn, lend to small businesses.
Voters were asked to borrow $4 million for FAME’s loan insurance program, which insures qualifying bank loans for qualifying businesses, reducing the risk a commercial bank faces in lending to new businesses. The question also asked to borrow $8 million for a loan program that gives money to regional development entities. Those groups — such as the Bangor-based MaineStream Finance — then use the money to provide “gap financing” for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and as many as 50 employees in certain target sectors.
The borrowing would increase funding for existing programs, not create new programs at FAME.
Question 4: Bar Harbor cancer lab
If the voters approve borrowing $10 million, The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor has agreed to put up $11 million to build a new facility where its researchers hope to find genetic cures for cancer and research other diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS.
The 16,000-square-foot “Center for Biometric Analysis” would allow the researchers to study genomics associated with those diseases by working with special lab mice that JAX has developed.
Question 5: MDI Lab
The Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory stands to benefit from approval of Question 5, which would borrow $3 million to help build a new laboratory and training facility near the laboratory in Salisbury Cove.
The lab would match the borrowing with $5.7 million in public and private money that it said would help boost workforce training for students by 45 percent, training about 800 students over the next five years, and advance the type of research that generated a spinoff business, Novo Biosciences, which is developing a treatment to repair tissue damage after a heart attack.
Question 6: Culverts
Question 6 asked voters to approve $10 million, broken into $5.4 million to upgrade stream crossings and culverts, $4.2 million to replenish a revolving loan fund used to upgrade drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities and $400,000 to start a program to work around Maine wetlands.
Question 7: Marine products
Question 7 asked voters for $7 million that could support researchers, seafood producers, community organizations and other businesses with connection to Maine’s marine industries, based on a competitive bidding process.
The borrowing would need to be matched by $7 million in private money.