House strips bond from transportation budget

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AUGUSTA – Democratic leaders in the House sided with most Republicans Wednesday to strip a proposal for $60 million in borrowing out of the state’s transportation budget.

The bonding plan, which was advanced by the Transportation Committee against the wishes of both Republican and Democratic leaders, could be reconsidered today.

As part of the agreement that allowed the Legislature to pass a nearly unanimous supplemental budget this year, Democratic leaders agreed that they would send no bonds out for voter approval this year.

It was a major victory for Republicans that was nearly undone.

“The Democratic leaders held to their word and honored the commitment that they had made,” said House Republican leader David Bowles, R-Sanford. “I appreciate that they were under tremendous pressure.”

It was a difficult vote for the Democrats, who have said throughout the process that from a policy standpoint, they believe bonding for highways and bridges is a responsible course of action. Most Democratic members of the Appropriations panel, which negotiated the budget, followed their leaders.

“As an individual, I felt like I had to keep my promise to Republicans,” said House Majority Leader Glenn Cummings, D-Portland. “As a spokesman for the (Democrats), however, this vote does not reflect well on the other party with the amount of needs that are out there.”

The effort to bypass party leaders was lead by Rep. Boyd Marley, D-Portland and House chairman of the Transportation Committee.

“If people listen to their constituents, they’ll vote for the bonds,” Marley said before the matter came to the floor.

Speaker of the House John Richardson, D-Brunswick, and Assistant Majority Leader Robert Duplessie, D-Westbrook, voted against the bonds. House chairman of the Appropriations Committee Rep. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, and committee members Benjamin Dudley, D-Portland, and Jeremy Fischer, D-Presque Isle, also voted against the bonds, as did Carol Grose, D-Woolwich, and Joanne Twomey, D-Biddeford.

Democrats Rep. Margaret Craven, Lewiston, and Arthur Lerman, Augusta, both sit on Appropriations but voted for the bonds. Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, who is also a member of Appropriations, did not vote.

Four Republicans voted for the bonds.

The tally: 67 for the bonds, 76 against, with eight members not voting.

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