Gov. Paul LePage said Monday that he has held up $117 million in voter-approved bonds that were on track to be sold Tuesday because of “excessive eleventh-hour legislative spending” by lawmakers as they struggle to bring a special session to a close.
LePage’s office said in a written statement Monday that he needs additional time to review the bond offering that state Treasurer Terry Hayes said Friday she has canceled for now because of LePage’s refusal to sign and the fact the closing was to happen Tuesday morning in New Jersey.
“For the time being, state government will use existing resources to fund key priorities, such as maintaining and improving our infrastructure,” LePage said.
At issue are $117 million in voter-approved bonds that were to be sold Tuesday. The majority of the money is for transportation projects, including some that Hayes said are already underway. In addition, the bonds were meant to replenish $54 million in internal borrowing that LePage signed off on earlier this year. By law, the state’s budget must be balanced by the end of every fiscal year, which is June 30.
LePage said Hayes “declined to provide additional time or to reschedule the bond closing,” but Hayes, who is running as an independent to replace LePage as governor, said those options were beyond her authority.
“The governor asked me to delay the sale until mid to late July,” said Hayes. “The bond buyers would have to agree. The answer was no. They’re not going to tie up tens of millions of dollars in the event that the governor might want to consummate the sale in mid July.”
Hayes speculated last week that without the $54 million from the bond proceeds, the state might have to dip into its rainy day account.
Hayes said Friday that she would have had to send the bond documents by overnight delivery service on Friday for lawyers in Boston to review Monday and then speed them to New Jersey by Tuesday. Now that the closing is canceled, the state will have to put the bonds out to bid again, preparation for which Hayes said would take about two-and-a-half weeks.
In the first three days of an ongoing special session last week, the Legislature sent dozens of bills worth tens of millions of dollars to LePage for consideration. They included two major spending packages that received bipartisan support and some 65 other bills, many of which have fiscal notes.
None of those bills will be in law until either LePage signs them or vetoes them, and the Legislature overrides the vetoes. The governor’s 24-hour window to line-item veto proposed expenditures in any bills on his desk expired last week.
“If the governor was so concerned about legislative spending, he could use the authority granted to him to veto any bill we send to his desk,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, in a written statement Monday.
The Legislature returned to Augusta on Monday to consider its last few tasks, though they are major ones. They included a debate on a tax conformity bill, passage of a new bond package for voters to consider and a technical errors bill that is necessary for Maine’s clean elections system to disperse funding to candidates later this year.
Lawmakers adjourned Monday afternoon without taking final action on any of those issues, though they did give preliminary approval to a bond for wastewater treatment without addressing a $105 million transportation bond proposal.
The House also voted 109-17 to give preliminary approval to a November bond question designed to fund facilities upgrades at University of Maine System campuses, but a second vote on that bond failed to win final passage when many Republicans in that chamber reversed their votes.
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