December 15, 2018
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Four bonds will further needed investment in Maine

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Maine Community College System trustees on Wednesday toured the new Public Safety Training Center on the campus of Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Jan. 27, 2016. The facility has several classrooms, and an ambulance box is set up in the building to aid training students.

The final four questions on the Nov. 6 ballot ask voters to consider $200 million in borrowing to improve educational facilities at the state’s university and community college systems, to improve municipal and private wastewater systems and to pay for needed infrastructure work. This borrowing package is greatly pared back from what lawmakers initially considered. Maine easily has the capacity for these bonds as the LePage administration has been loathe to support borrowing and the governor has refused to issue some bonds even after they were approved by voters.

This bond package can begin to set Maine back on a path of investing in the infrastructure and programs needed to spur economic development and job growth.

Together these investments represent a modest, but needed, investment in Maine’s future. We recommend that voters approve them.

Question 2

Do you favor a $30,000,000 bond issue to improve water quality, support the planning and construction of wastewater treatment facilities and assist homeowners whose homes are served by substandard or malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems?

Maine has $1 billion in wastewater infrastructure work that needs to be done to maintain and upgrade existing facilities. This work is needed to protect public health, ensure water quality and to support economic growth.

This bond will take care of only a small portion of that work, but it remains an important investment, especially since it will leverage far more than $30 million in federal and other state funds. In addition to helping communities improve their wastewater treatment and sewer systems and repairing failed septic systems, these funds will create an estimated 540 jobs. They will also allow some closed shellfish harvesting areas to be reopened, putting fishermen back to work.

Question 3

Do you favor a $106,000,000 bond issue, including $101,000,000 for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities and equipment related to ports, piers, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds, and $5,000,000 for the upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings?

Like the preceding wastewater bond, this borrowing is essential to keep Maine’s highways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure functional. This year’s borrowing question is a companion to last year’s bond, which was approved by 73 percent of voters.

Most of the bond money will go toward work on the top priorities in the Department of Transportation’s work plan. The remainder, about $20 million, will go toward bicycle, aviation, rail and port projects.

Question 4

Do you favor a $49,000,000 bond issue to be matched by at least $49,000,000 in private and public funds to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine’s public universities in order to expand workforce development capacity and to attract and retain students to strengthen Maine’s economy and future workforce?

This bond, the first for the university system in five years, will build educational capacity at all seven university system campuses to educate students for professions facing shortages like engineering, nursing, education and computer sciences. The largest single portion, $19 million, will go to the University of Southern Maine to build a new student career center.

About $12 million of the investments in Question 4 will double the system’s enrollment in nursing programs, to meet a current and growing shortage of nurses statewide, especially in rural areas. Investments in science laboratories and buildings will be made at campuses in Orono, Machias and Presque Isle.

Question 5

Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to improve educational programs by upgrading facilities at all 7 of Maine’s community colleges in order to provide Maine people with access to high-skill, low-cost technical and career education?

This investment, in all seven campuses of Maine’s Community College System, will support a significant increase in enrollment, which will help training workers for Maine’s growing industries. For example, the campuses need equipment and technology that is up-to-date so they are learning skills on the same type of equipment they will use in the workplace.

More than 90 percent of Maine community college graduates are working in Maine. They fill vital needs as police officers, emergency medical technicians, health professionals, accountants. The colleges are increasingly teaming with local businesses to offer short-term training to fill new jobs or to teach new skills to current workers.

These four bonds are a small but important investment in Maine and its future. They deserve support from Maine voters.

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