After agreeing in June to go forward with two bond issues, Maine Democrats and Republicans have been arguing over other possible bonds.
Since taking office in February 2011, Republican Gov. Paul LePage had declined to approve the issuance of $105 million of bonds approved by the voters in November 2010 and 2012.
This past winter LePage said he would not approve the bonds until the state found a way to pay off $186 million in Medicaid debt it owed to the state’s hospitals.
After struggling with the Democrats for several months on how to do this, LePage’s idea of selling $186 million in liquor revenue bonds to pay the debt was approved in June. In response, LePage agreed to release the $105 million in bonds.
After the liquor bond was approved, the previously bond-skeptical LePage proposed that the state sell $100 million in transportation bonds. While the Republicans in the state legislature supported the proposal, they are in the minority in both houses and the Democrats voted the idea down at the end of the legislative session in late June.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing to see the Republicans pull this eleventh-hour political stunt,” Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves said on July 7. “If Republicans were serious about creating jobs through bonding, where were they when Gov. LePage was holding bonds hostage for more than two years?”
Instead, the Democrats will be seeking a bond that will provide funds for roads and bridges, research and development, and natural resources, Eves and Maine Senate President Justin Alfond said.
Democratic and Republican legislators proposed 32 bond proposals totaling $1.3 billion in the spring legislative session. All these, as well as LePage’s $100 million bond proposal, will be considered by the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee this summer, Eves said.
Though the legislature was not scheduled to return to session until January, leading Democrats are now talking about bringing it back in September to vote on one or more bonds. General obligation bonds could be voted on in November or June.
The Maine Municipal Bond Bank plans to sell the liquor bond in August, Maine Treasurer Neria Douglass said. If the senior manager, Wells Fargo, determines the underlying value of business would support it, the bond may be for more than $186 million, she said.
State agencies were surveyed about their capital needs recently and said they needed about $70 million, Maine Deputy State Treasurer Kristi Carlo said. So instead of $105 million, the state’s GO bond will be for about $70 million. This will be sold sometime between September to February, she said.