Committee bucks budget deal, OKs $60M in bonds

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AUGUSTA – Despite adamant opposition from leaders of both parties, a majority of the Transportation Committee voted Thursday to include $60 million in borrowing in its budget.

As part of the negotiations surrounding the supplemental budget, Democratic and Republican negotiators agreed that no bonds would be sent to voters for approval this year. The agreement was a linchpin in the negotiations that secured nearly unanimous support in both the House and Senate for the budget.

Democrats have argued that transportation spending is best financed through bonding, but they relented to Republican demands and instead included $15 million from the General Fund for transportation needs.

“My word is my bond, no pun intended,” Richardson said. “We made an agreement, though the merits of transportation bonds are clear and there’s much need. People are demanding that we work together and compromise. Democrats want to invest in roads and bridges, but I will live by my word.”

Other members of leadership on both sides of the aisle have echoed those sentiments, meaning the bond proposal faces a difficult time on the floor of the House and Senate.

House Majority Leader Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, said that he had spoken to Rep. Boyd Marley, D-Portland and the House chairman of the Transportation Committee, about not pushing the bonds through.

“He feels strongly about it,” Cummings said. “My feeling is that it violates the handshake agreement that we have with Republicans.”

The type of transportation bonds included by the committee, which borrow against anticipated revenue from the federal government and the gasoline tax, do not require voter approval, but the committee included language in its budget to put the matter on the ballot.

“I think we have the votes to defeat it,” Cummings said. “But it got a strong vote out of committee with both Democrats and Republicans.”

Two members of the committee, Rep. William Browne, R-Vassalboro, and Rep. Terrance McKenney, R-Cumberland, voted against the committee report and offered an alternative budget that’s identical to the majority report minus the bonds.

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