AUGUSTA — Maine’s new state treasurer vowed Monday to try and persuade Gov. Paul LePage to allow bonds that were approved by voters in November to be sold.
During a speech after being sworn in by LePage, Neria Douglass said it’s time for the governor to allow the $64 million in bonds to be issued.
Voters approved three bond issues in November’s election earmarked for transportation projects, land conservation, and public drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, but LePage has said he won’t allow the bonds to be sold until the state’s financial condition improves.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Douglass said the bond money would create jobs and improve the quality of life in Maine.
“These are measures that the people of Maine voted on,” she said.
LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor, by law, has the final say on whether the bonds are sold, and that he has no intention to do so anytime soon.
“What the governor has said all along is we need to wait until it’s fiscally prudent to move forward with the bonds,” Bennett said. “That time isn’t right now.”
Besides Douglass, incoming Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Attorney General Janet Mills and state auditor Pola Buckley were also sworn into office in the House chambers.
Mills and Dunlap are returning to their previous jobs, while Douglass takes over as state treasurer after serving as state auditor for eight years. Buckley previously served as the principal auditor in the Department of Audit.
Democrats Mills, Dunlap and Douglass ousted Republican Attorney General William Schneider, Secretary of State Charlie Summers and Treasurer Bruce Poliquin after the Democrats took back their legislative majorities in November.
During his two-year term, Poliquin took lead roles in revamping the state pension system, taking on the Maine State Housing Authority and advocating for smaller government, while sending out emails regularly about what he was working on and his accomplishments.
Douglass said she doesn’t plan to be as vocal as Poliquin.
“I’m going to ratchet back some of the political rhetoric,” she said.
Dunlap takes over for Summers, who drew criticism during his term when he sent letters to students at four state universities telling them they needed to register their vehicles in Maine and get Maine driver’s licenses if they wanted to continue voting in the state. His letters came after top Republican officials said nonresident students were abusing the voting system and voting twice — charges that have gone essentially unsubstantiated.
Dunlap said the sections of law governing residency around motor vehicles have no connection to the sections of law governing residency for voting purposes.
“I understand the concerns about election security, but it has to be balanced with access to the ballot,” he said. “I’m going to be focused on that, making sure that people can vote and that they can feel confident their vote is being tabulated accurately.”