Maine Turnpike overhaul bill, budget, advance

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A bipartisan bill that overhauls the administrative and financial procedures of the Maine Turnpike has won overwhelming initial House approval.

Representatives voted 144-0 Thursday to approve the bill, which was introduced in the wake of an audit and legislative investigation into lavish and unexplained expenses by toll road officials that led to the former executive director’s resignation.

The bill approved Thursday faces further House and Senate votes. It shortens the terms of turnpike board members from seven to six years, increases auditing procedures, and calls for closer legislative scrutiny of the turnpike budget.

Meanwhile, a $114 million turnpike budget for the calendar year 2012 has won the solid endorsement of the Transportation Committee. Tolls account for $108 million of the budget’s total.

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