A $7 million financial rescue package for the Maine Military Authority in Limestone cleared a major hurdle Friday, when the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs committee approved a supplemental budget for a future vote by the state House and Senate.
The supplemental budget goes to the House and Senate for votes, which could come as early as next week.
Along with funding for expanded opioid addiction treatment and other programs, the $29 million supplemental budget approved by the committee includes $7 million for the Maine Military Authority, the state-operated enterprise that has been in the midst of a contract renegotiation with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Gov. Paul LePage’s supplemental budget proposal sought the $7 million from the state’s General Fund surplus to help the MMA restart work on the $19 million MBTA bus renovation contract and position itself for future business opportunities.
MMA workers at the Loring Commerce Centre facility completed 11 of the 32 MBTA buses called for in the 2014 contract when LePage halted the work last September amid concerns that the contract had been unintentionally underbid. About half of the MMA’s 65-employee workforce was laid off last fall, while the other half are working on contracts for school and municipal transit buses.
The MMA and the MBTA have been in talks to renegotiate the contract and have put together a conceptual agreement that still needs to be finalized and is partly contingent on the supplemental funding.
The concept calls for an additional $2.1 million to be added to the project by the MBTA — $1 million of which was authorized in early February — and a $6 million commitment from the MMA.
The $6 million would come from the $7 million supplemental package and cover past debt from the losses on the initial 11 vehicles and any additional costs, Gen. Douglas Farnham, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, said in an interview earlier this month.
Farnham said the rest of the $7 million package also will help the MMA secure new business opportunities, such as refurbishing heavy equipment.
“There’s a demand for the work they’re doing,” Farnham said. “It’s a viable alternative to buying new equipment and vehicles.”