Approve all five Nov. 5

Maine — like most other states — bonds a great many projects not funded through the state’s regular budget process.

We borrow, through bonds, to pay for upgrades to our bridges and roads, for building projects at our colleges and universities, for upgrades to water and sewer systems, and for other large public capital improvement projects.

On Nov. 5, voters will face decisions on five bond issues that total $149.5 million in spending. Three of the five issues are for construction projects to upgrade schools — including classrooms and laboratories through the University of Maine System, a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy, and for new buildings and classrooms at the seven campuses that make up the Maine Community College System.

There is a $100 million bond question for transportation projects and a $14 million bond issue to upgrade the state’s Army National Guard readiness centers.

The transportation and Guard bonds, if approved, will leverage an additional $154 million in federal funds and other funding, which means borrowing $149.5 million doubles our money. It’s not free money, of course, since we’re talking about borrowed money, so approving the bonds also means we can anticipate $32.89 million in interest payments, but if we’re serious about improving our roads and public colleges and universities, the math works.

Let’s look at the bonds in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Question 1 asks voters to consider $14 million in spending for Maine’s Army National Guard. Of that amount, $3 million will be used to purchase up to 6,000 acres of land. Federal funds cannot be used to purchase land for training, so if Maine intends to expand its training facilities we’re going to have to pay for that with state dollars.

The remaining $11 million of this bond represents the state’s share for repair and modernization of armories, including energy efficient improvement projects. If approved, the bond will leverage up to $14 million in additional federal funds between 2015 and 2019.

Question 2 asks voters to consider $15.5 million in spending to “enhance educational and employment opportunities” at Maine’s university system.

Specifically, $5.5 million would be spent to support the engineering and math programs at Orono; $1.2 million to upgrade science and nursing labs at the Augusta and Bangor campuses; $1.2 million to renovate the science facilities at Preble Hall and Ricker Hall in Farmington; $1.2 million to renovate and expand the nursing lab at Fort Kent; $1.2 million to renovate Powers Hall in Machias; $1.2 million to upgrade technology, engineering and math facilities in Presque Isle; and $4 million to renovate labs at USM.

If we expect our students to keep up with advances in science, math and technology, we have an obligation to provide the facilities in which they can accomplish that work.

Question 3 — the largest expenditure request on the ballot — asks voters to consider spending $100 million to reconstruct and rehab roads and bridges, and to pay for facilities and equipment for ports, harbors, railroads, aviation and transit. That just about covers every mode of transportation possible, except the bicycle.

Of the $100 million, $44 million would be spent on highways; $5 million on secondary roads; $27 million on bridges; and $24 million on other transit projects, including improvements at the International Marine Terminal in Portland.

Everyone knows Maine’s roads need work. Let’s get that work funded.

Question 4 asks voters to consider spending $4.5 million to build a new science facility at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, where science is a major unit of study. That amount would be matched by other funds to be raised by the school.

Question 5 asks voters to consider spending $15.5 million on our community colleges.

This one should be of particular interest to Sun Journal readers who have attended or know someone who attends or attended Central Maine Community College.

Of the $15.5 million, $2.35 million would be spent at the Auburn campus.

According to college President Scott Knapp, the funds — plus another $2.5 million raised locally — would be used to construct a new academic building to house an organic chemistry lab, a computer simulation center and business simulation center and the college’s admissions offices.

The building would also double as the new entrance to the college, and provide an opportunity to redesign the traffic and parking patterns to be more efficient.

In addition to the spending at CMCC, the bond would fund $2.45 million to expand classroom space at Eastern Maine Community College; $2 million for environmental improvements and to create classroom space for a new culinary arts program at Kennebec Valley Community College; $900,000 to renovate Aroostook Hall and construct a new maintenance facility at Northern Maine Community College; $3.4 million to upgrade buildings and purchase classroom equipment to expand enrollment of the integrated manufacturing program at the Brunswick campus of Southern Maine Community College; $1 million to renovate Harold Howland Building at Washington County Community College; and $3.4 million to construct a new building and buy equipment for a new implemented precision machining program at York County Community College.

These requests are all to accommodate a growing student population at Maine’s community colleges, and to enhance their learning, which we support.

What’s particularly compelling about this last bond question is that it will fund an exceptionally efficient system. Since 2006, the enrollment at Maine’s community colleges has soared while the core cost per student has dropped.

More students are recognizing the affordability of community college tuition, particularly when these college credits can be transferred to other schools.

According to Knapp, in the past year, CMCC students have transferred themselves and their credits to hundreds of other colleges, including Harvard, Bates, Colby, Penn State, Boston College, Pratt Institute, Columbia, Suffolk University-Law, Babson College, Norwich University and the University of Maine.

Although the public was invited to comment on each of the bonds before they moved from the governor’s office to the ballot box, no public comments were provided on any of them, either in support or in opposition to the expenditures. Maybe that’s because it would be hard to argue that, at about 3 percent interest, we have an opportunity to fix roadways, improvement transportation infrastructure and augment educational opportunities for our students.

We urge a “yes” vote on all five bond issues on Nov. 5.

All five on Nov. 5.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

MARK GRAVEL's picture

"...$154 million in federal

"...$154 million in federal funds and other funding, which means borrowing $149.5 million doubles our money."

I wonder who has to pay for the $154 million in federal funds? Doubling your money may be a windfall for Maine, but someone gets stuck with the bill. Well, if you dump in someone else's backyard, who cares, right?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I've yet to see a bond issue

I've yet to see a bond issue that Maine voters did not like.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Did they buy into the line

Did they buy into the line that voting for a bond does not raise taxes?

 's picture

My friends and family

have had to pare our expenditures down to some very bare levels of late. Wouldn 't it make sense for the govt. to do the same?
I vote no across the board. The time to cut back is NOW!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Dave Wilson is a wise man....

Dave Wilson is a wise man....

 's picture

lol

I concur

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yes, but Mark, we can't pass

Yes, but Mark, we can't pass up all that free government money.

 's picture

keeping in mind that ...

...all that free government money comes out of your other pocket.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Keep in mind that it appears

Keep in mind that it appears to be free money for the nearly 47% who pay little to no Federal Income taxes.

Kyle Wilson's picture

how and why I voted

I did my voting early this year.

I voted "yes" on 1, not because I feel that it's really a necessity, but because it became apparent to me during the federal shutdown that congress cannot be depended on for maintaining funds for the national guard so we have to take care of our own.

I voted "no" on question 2 because although investing in education is important, it would just give more reason to raise the price even more for our already overpriced university system. As a former student of USM I can attest to the dropping enrollment rate as students abandon the universities for a more realistically priced education at the community colleges. I felt that the benefit of making this investment would fall to a very small percentage of Maine people who would likely eventually leave the state to use their education elsewhere.

I voted "yes" on question 3 because though much of the money appropriated for our infastructure tends to be misused, at least a portion of it will be spent appropriately, creating jobs (however temporary) and positively affecting the lives of all mainers who use the roads daily.

I voted "no" on question 4 because I felt that the benefits of approving the bond would be felt by a very small fraction of Mainers. Perhaps during better times this wouldn't be a bad idea but with thousands of residents losing Mainecare, struggling to find jobs, and being cut off from other government aid now seems a poor time for this kind of investment. It's high time we got our priorities in order.

Lastly, I voted "yes" on question 5 because Investing in Community colleges is something that people all over the state can benefit from because Community college students are much more likely to use their education locally after graduation. Also, many more people attend Community college and will be affected directly by this bond package.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Approve all five Nov. 5 ?

Mainers , Sunday 14:18 HST ?
Why wouldn't you approve these items ?
A: ________________ ?
btw - 90% of road repairs can be funded federally . Ask your Senators about http://www.recovery.gov/About/Pages/The_Act.aspx
hth , Steve
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/27/241179078/hawaii-set-to-t...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Because it's a debt load our

Because it's a debt load our grandchildren are going to have to deal with and pay for with the income from their jobs at Big Apple, Dunkin Donuts, Walmart , and Cumberland Farms.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Bonds

Maine people usually have enough sense to realize that we need to invest in education and science and infrastructure if we want to attract jobs and to see our economy grow. The fact that we have probably the slowest economic recovery in New England pretty much attests to that. It would be dumb to just stand around and wait for economic development to fall out of the sky and it would be equally dumb to pass these bonds only to see them sit on the governor's desk for the duration of his term because he wants to use them to bully the legislature. We need to approve the bonds and get a different governor.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Claire , Ayuh ? Then again

Claire , Ayuh ?
Then again , Maine is the eldest State in this blessed Union ( we live l o n g e s t here in Hawai'i though )
Lot's of nay - sayers and curmudgeons here , also
This leads us to a parable
Remember the one about , " the sky is falling . The sky is falling ! "
Yeah . The chicken
Per chance , do you recall the farmer's response ?
A: " Holy crap . A talking chicken . "
hth , Steve :D

MARK GRAVEL's picture

What? Steve is choking whose

What? Steve is choking whose chicken?

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Funny

I like that joke.

AL PELLETIER's picture

What's the point?

Lepage will decide what we want just like he did with the voter approved highway bond in the 2010 election.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

LePage will make the best,

LePage will make the best, but perhaps not most popular, decision.

CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

I'm with you Al.

I'm with you Al.

Jim Cyr's picture

How about those

100's of millions that were taken from the highway department in the previous administration to balance the so-call budget. How much of those funds were once approved through the bond process only to be robbed and utilized else where? You guys just hate small, efficient government !! It seems that most of the media in it's pursuit of the First Amendment, instead of being a watch dog for the rest of our Constitutional principals, seems to be just a " Lap Dog " for big government !! Not to mention all the " LOW INFORMATION VOTERS "!!!!

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jim , 14:30 hst ?

Jim , 14:30 hst ? Sunday
What ? The media ? Oh ! http://www.twincitytimes.com We get it now ;)
All those highway , byway , bridge ( Piscataqua - New Hamster [ sic. ] ) , and railroad repair effort one see scattered around New England and the rest of the United States are from our President Obama's ' Reconstruction , Rehabilitation and Recovery Act , " signed in to law in 2 0 0 9 www.recovery.gov/About/Pages/The_Act.aspx
Are we right or are we right ? /s, Dr. Dosh
" Our President proposes . The tea party disposes "

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"New Hamster"? You listened

"New Hamster"?
You listened to Persky too much when you were a Batesey.

Jim Cyr's picture

Steve, we are wrong !!

Did you not read my comment about all the highway funds being used else where from the previous administration ??
And OUR President proposes to transform our country as our Founding Fathers had designed for U.S. Which by the way, the Tea Party has taken on for U.S. to continue the vision. Bring back Constitutional principals of smaller government and Free Enterprise and most of all individual freedoms and self reliance, not a "NANNY" State as you Progressives are so pushing in your concept of "Transforming" what our Founders died for in getting away from King George.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Yet so many are willing to

Yet so many are willing to bow before king Obumma.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

They'll bow all the way to

They'll bow all the way to the guillotine.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Bow? I thought they were

Bow? I thought they were pulling dollar bills out of my wallet.

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