LEWISTON – Gov. John Baldacci said Friday he’s hopeful the Legislature will pass a bonds package in time for the November election after failing to reach agreement last year.

Projected job losses due to recommended military base closures helped galvanize a bipartisan spirit among legislative leaders who met Thursday, Baldacci told the Sun Journal’s editorial board.

That, coupled with a rosier state budget outlook make this a good time to borrow money for infrastructure improvements, Baldacci said.

In order to counteract the effects of a “federally induced recession,” Democrats and Republicans have come together to talk about spurring Maine’s economy through job creation, he said.

“You can’t complain about Maine’s economy and not do anything about it,” Baldacci said. “This has to be about jobs.”

Leaders from both parties are expected to reach general agreement Monday on a borrowing plan. If they do, the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee would be called in to nail down which projects should be included and assign dollar amounts to each.

The package must pass muster with two-thirds of lawmakers in the House and Senate to get on November ballots. The last time voters approved state bonding was in June 2003.

While he is open to borrowing for all types of projects, Baldacci said the following ought be be included:

• research and development

• land for Maine’s future and

• air and water issues.

The overall amount of borrowing discussed by leadership is just under $100 million, according to state officials. Baldacci said he wouldn’t set limits on an amount he would support.

“I’m not going to draw any lines,” he said.

Last year, the two parties stood far apart on a borrowing package. Democrats pushed for $120 million while Republicans refused to go higher than $40 million, citing concerns about total state indebtedness.

The debate became mired in committee and never even went to the full Legislature.

House Assistant Majority Leader Robert Duplessie, reached by phone Friday, said the difference in tone during Thursday’s meeting compared to last year’s discussions has been “night and day.” Rancor over last year’s budget was blamed for the breakdown in bond talks. This year, discussion has been “very cordial,” he said.

Baldacci said Democrats’ efforts to eliminate the need for borrowing to balance the budget this year, through combined spending cuts and a cigarette tax hike, helped bring Republicans to the table.

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