Maine Democratic leaders and Republican Gov. Paul LePage have agreed to a plan to issue $150 million in new bonds, the latest step away from a political deadlock over financings.
The general obligation bond package negotiated last week would include $100 million for transportation projects, $35.5 million for higher education projects, and $14 million forNational Guard armory projects.
The joint House and Senate Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will meet Thursday to discuss and vote on the proposed bonds. The House and Senate may then reconvene as soon as next week to vote, House Democratic spokeswoman Jodi Quintero said. Each body would need to approve the bonds by a two thirds vote.
"Our roads, bridges and ports are important economic drivers that help create jobs, but the federal government is flat-funding transportation projects," LePage said. "Now is the time for the state to invest in these much-needed infrastructure improvements, [and] create jobs and stability for the construction industry."
Since taking office in February 2011 LePage had declined to approve the sale of $105 million in voter approved bonds. In June, however, LePage and the Democrats approved a $186 million liquor bond to raise the money to pay off the state's Medicaid debt to hospitals. In response, LePage agreed to release the voter approved bonds.
If approved, the bonds would appear on a ballot in November as five separate referendums, covering five different uses of the bonds. Each referendum would be passed by a majority vote.
"We heard from the business community that Maine's infrastructure and education systems must remain competitive," said Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, a Democrat. "The bond prepares our workforce for the jobs of the future and gets people back to work."
Democrats were hoping for bonds to support research and development and for land conservation. LePage rejected this but agreed to consider a research and development bond in January, according to Alfond's office.
The bonds would have 10 year maturities, Maine Treasurer Neria Douglass said. They would probably be sold in June, according to Grant Pennoyer, director of the Office of Fiscal and Program Review.