AUGUSTA – Maine voters turning out in light numbers gave their emphatic approval Tuesday to both bond issues, totaling $131 million, that appeared on the statewide ballot.

The top question on the ballot, which proposed authorization for $113 million in long-term borrowing for transportation projects, was ahead with 72 percent of the vote after ballots from 80 percent of the precincts were counted, according to unofficial returns.

“This reaffirms that voters understand we need to fix the roads and bridges” and make other transportation infrastructure improvements, said Maria Fuentes of the Keep Maine Moving Coalition, which urged a yes vote. “I think it’s one of those bread-and-butter issues that impacts just about every citizen in the state.”

The second question, which seeks $18.3 million in clean water bonds, was winning with 65 percent of the vote. The clean water bonds include $14.9 million for municipal loans and grants to build, repair or improve wastewater treatment facilities, and $3.4 million to build and upgrade public drinking water systems.

As he voted in his hometown of Bangor, Gov. John Baldacci encouraged other Mainers to cast ballots as well, saying the twin bond issues were important because they have the potential to draw an additional $310 million in federal and other matching funds.

The governor was joined by statewide business and construction organizations in pushing for approval of the transportation bonds.

Those bonds also included $100 million for highways and bridges and nearly $13 million in marine, rail, trail, aviation and transit projects.

The transportation funding would benefit facilities ranging from continued operating support for the Downeaster passenger train to construction of a new Acadia Gateway welcome center in Trenton, as well as port and harbor structures and bicycle and pedestrian trails.

“They mean jobs for our people now and into the future, and will improve our communities from one end of the state to the other,” Baldacci said. There was no organized opposition to either bond issue.

Baldacci, noting that Mainers had not voted on a bond package since November 2005, said conditions for state borrowing improved earlier this spring when Standard & Poor’s upgraded Maine’s general obligation bond rating from AA-minus to AA with a stable outlook.

Tuesday’s bond package is the first of a three-part borrowing plan totaling $295 million that was proposed by Baldacci and the Legislature in April. The remaining portions of the total are to be voted on in November of this year and June 2008.

The bonds were the only statewide questions Tuesday, but a number of municipalities held local elections to choose officials and decide issues.

The Secretary of State’s office said all of the ballots distributed statewide for the bond issues had to be hand counted. There was not enough time after legislative approval of the package to have optic-scanner ballots printed, officials said.


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