AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine voters will see only one bond issue on their ballot this November. 105 million dollars for transportation projects. The bond proposal won a unanimous vote in the Senate Tuesday afternoon. But three other bonds, including one to help expand broadband service, were rejected as Republicans announced they would not support those bonds. Under the state constitution, a two-thirds majority vote is needed to pass bonds, and GOP votes are needed to reach that total.
Democrats and Gov. Janet Mills had put together the $163 million bond package after a $239 million plan was defeated in the last day of the Legislature in June. The new proposal included the bond for transportation, and another for a $15 million expansion of broadband, which the Mills administration says would generate a 3-1 match of federal funds.
In addition, that bond included funding for equipment for high school voc-ed programs and National Guard facilities. There was also a $15 million environmental bond and another to provide new funding for the Land for Maine’s Future conservation program.
But in the Senate debate, GOP Leader Sen. Dana Dow said his caucus would only support the transportation bond.
“As we are all aware,” said Dow, “State government has a bill coming in January and a supplemental budget may cost taxpayers as much as 150- to 200 million dollars or more. Voting now when we don’t know what the January bill will be in my opinion is irresponsible and unnecessary.”
That angered Governor Mills, who called an afternoon press conference to blast Republicans.
“They’re sheep,” Mills said, suggesting GOP lawmakers were just following party leaders. ” I’m sorry they’re acting like sheep.”
Mills said Republicans had not been willing to offer their own proposals for new bonds, while GOP leaders said they were not invited to negotiate with the Governor and Democrats.
“I think the Republican Party in this legislature has become the party of procrastination, the party of no,
said Mills. “They’ve come back with nothing in the way of bond. Its just kick the can down the road, well that’s great for people who have cans to kick.”
The transportation bond will go to voters in November. The other three issues appear certain to be brought back when lawmakers begin their winter session in January.