One day after authorization for $6.5 million of voter-approved land conservation bonds expired, Maine's voters overwhelmingly passed ballot measures that authorize borrowing of $100 million for transportation and affordable senior housing projects.
A $85 million transportation bond initiative signed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage in July was approved with 73% support Tuesday. The referendum paves the way for $46 million in bridge replacements and rehabilitation and $17 million to enhance high-priority highways. An additional $17 million will also be dedicated to improving ports, marine transportation, aviation and rail transportation.
A $15 million bond issue for construction of new low-income senior housing was approved with 69% support. The proposition allows Maine to issue $15 million for the construction of new energy-efficient affordable homes for low-income seniors.
Election Day came a day after around $6.5 million in Maine Land Conservation and Waterfront Preservation bonds approved in 2010 expired on Nov. 1 due to not being released by a five-year deadline. LePage has withheld the bonds because of the Republican governor's call to increase timber harvesting on state-owned lands. He did agree to unfreeze $2.2 million for ongoing Land for Maine's Future projects in late October.
Maine Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, has proposed legislation that would extend the period for issuing the expired bonds up to two more years.
"I look forward to the coming session and passing this vital piece of legislation," said Pouliot in a statement on his Facebook page. "This will give more time to affirm the will of the voters who overwhelmingly support the funding of this program which protects an outdoor heritage that is integral to the Maine way of life."
Maine GO bonds are rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's.