AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine election officials are readying for an election in just over three weeks that you already may have forgotten about — if you knew about it at all.
Mainers will vote June 13 on a $50 million bond issue for economic development, $45 million of which would be earmarked for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades in seven targeted sectors, including aquaculture, forestry, agriculture and composite materials.
That money would be administered by the Maine Technology Institute and would have to be matched on a one-to-one basis with federal or other funds while the other $5 million in the bond package would be given to small businesses showing potential for growth and public benefit.
The Maine electorate loves bonds, passing 82 percent of the ones proposed since 1990, according to research from University of Maine at Farmington political scientist James Melcher, who noted that a June bond issue hasn’t been defeated in Maine during that time period.
In case you needed any more certainty that this one’s going to pass, Maine has passed 16 of 18 economic development bonds since 1990. They’ve passed with a 55 percent vote, on average. They’re Maine’s best-performing widely used type of bond, passing a greater percentage of the time than transportation, education or natural resources bonds.
The bond had wide support in the Legislature, passing with just 10 votes against it in the House of Representatives after testimony from A-list constituent groups, including the University of Maine, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and The Jackson Laboratory.
The sometimes bond-averse Gov. Paul LePage signed it into law contingent on this spring’s election, which was a change of tune of sorts after her vetoed a similar $20 million bond proposed by the Legislature, arguing it should have funded this through appropriations and not borrowing.
It’s not a bad argument. If this bond passes, Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes estimates the state will pay nearly $14 million in interest to borrow the money. The Legislature could just appropriate $50 million, but they’d have to find other money to do so. Borrowing allows the state to pay this money back over time.
That’s why it’s such an attractive option for politicians, even those as conservative as the governor. And nothing’s sinking this question based on Maine’s history.
This item was originally published in Daily Brief, a free political newsletter distributed Monday through Friday by the Bangor Daily News to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more of today’s Daily Brief, click here. To have the Daily Brief delivered daily to your inbox, click here.