HALLOWELL, Maine — The Legislature is still trying to finish work on the new state budget, but on Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills was talking about the next piece of new spending.
The Governor rolled out her plan for a two year, $239 million bond package -- the things she wants the state to borrow money to pay for. It includes what may be a first -- a proposed bond for child care facilities.
Bonding is typically one of the last steps in the budget process. It actually follows the budget, since the plan agreed to by the Appropriations Committee will include a set amount of money to pay for new borrowing.
Nearly half of Gov. Mills' package ($105 million) is for transportation needs to fix roads bridges, ports, and airports. That is the same basic amount the state has borrowed each year for the past five years, according to administration officials.
There would also be money for electronic highways, with $30 million going to help expand broadband in rural areas. Mills says there are currently more than 80,000 homes without access to high speed internet service, which she says is crucial in the modern economy.
"We can no longer be a dial-up state in a 5G nation," Mills said during a State House press conference. "It's time we opened the state’s doors to future business investments, and this is how we do it."
Much of the bond package includes money for needs the Legislature has traditionally supported with bonds, including $30 million to fund the Land for Maine’s Future program and $9 million for new technical and career training facilities to create a larger skilled workforce.
But the Governor also is asking for $5 million to provide more and better child care. Mills says child care is one way to help attract and keep young families in Maine, and that point was driven home in a meeting with Moody’s Investor Service and Standard and Poor’s, the two national credit rating agencies. She says they give Maine high marks for how government is managed but raise concerns over the aging workforce.
"I said you can’t change the age of your people, the people who are here," Mills told the press conference, "But you can do what you can to encourage young people to move back to Maine or come to Maine and raise their kids here."
The bond proposal would use the money for grants or a loan fund to help child care facilities expand or start business. The Governor said she knows the need from her own family.
"People want to work. They have a good work ethic, but you have to have good child care. It's critical -- as much as you need good skills training and education to get the job you want."
The Governor’s proposal will compete with dozens of other bond ideas from Legislators. The proposed new state budget includes funding for $300 million in new state borrowing.
Democratic leaders in House and Senate praised the Governor’s plan, but the Appropriations Committee will get to decide if her priorities and funding amounts match what the full Legislature wants.
Read Gov. Mills' full bond plan here.