AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills will authorize the spring sale of a $15 million senior housing bond that was blocked by her predecessor after being approved by Maine voters in 2015 amid a larger backlog of voter-approved bonds that haven’t yet been issued.
The housing bond, which passed with 69 percent support in a statewide referendum, would build 200 energy-efficient homes for low-income seniors and weatherize another 100 homes for low-income seniors. It would be matched with $22.6 million in federal funds.
Former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, opposed the bond, which was proposed by one of his main rivals, former House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. LePage gave differing reasons for not authorizing the sale, from saying he was worried about the state’s credit rating to saying it would be a windfall for developers.
During his tenure, legislators tried to pass bids to circumvent LePage’s authority to hold up bond sales, but they were foiled by his veto pen. But Mills and a Legislature led by fellow Democrats have taken over in 2019. Scott Ogden, a spokesman for the new governor, said she will release the housing bond “soon” and will release bonds “in a timely manner” in the future.
The housing bonds are among $264 million in voter-approved bonds that remain unissued, according to data from State Treasurer Henry Beck’s office. Beck, a newly elected Democrat, said the senior housing bonds will be sold as part of a scheduled sale this spring.
Most of that — $165 million in total — is from the 2018 election, when voters approved borrowing for transportation, universities, community colleges and culverts, among other items. It includes bond money for wastewater and drinking water upgrades that was approved in 2014.
Beck said he has authorized a transfer of $500,000 to the Maine State Housing Authority to begin weatherization and other upgrades allowed under the bond, which will be paid back after the sale. He said the next bond sale will be larger than normal because of the backlog but that the whole backlog won’t be sold then because it would be an “unusually large sale.”
“Whatever we do is going to be prudent and responsible, but there is a backlog and we do have an obligation in many ways to follow the will of the voters,” Beck said.
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