We agree with Gov. Paul LePage on some things, and we disagree with him on others.

The wisdom of borrowing modestly to improve the state’s future falls into the latter category.

LePage is a successful businessman, and that makes it difficult to see how opposing or holding up bond spending is a business-like decision.

No business would turn down an opportunity to invest $1 and get at least $3 or more in return, yet that is what the governor seems to be doing.

Question 2 would allow the state to borrow $11.3 million, $7.8 million of which would help build a new plant and animal diagnostic testing center at the University of Maine.

The amazing progress we have made in agricultural productivity has always been a “cooperative” venture between universities, farmers and consumers, that’s partly why most states have Cooperative Extension Service programs and offices.

Beyond that, all of us need protection from salmonella, ticks, bed bugs and the mosquitoes that now spread serious diseases.

This facility would help identify and combat all these scourges.

Most Mainers don’t know it, but the state has added 1,000 farms in the past decade and agriculture was a $614 million industry here in 2010.

The balance of the money would go toward capital investments in our college and community college systems.

In higher education, our workforce lags the rest of New England, as does our economy. We think these two problems are connected, and we think the solution is higher education and more technical training.

Maine voters always approve bond borrowing for road and bridge repairs, and we are sure they will approve the $51.5 million contained in Question 4.

This would be matched by as much as $105.6 million from the federal government to rebuild roads and bridges, plus it would put hundreds of people to work in our construction industries.

In turn, those dollars would roll through our economy, helping hundreds of Maine businesses.

Question 5 would have the same effect, in this case borrowing $7.9 million to pull down $39 million from the federal government for revolving loans to communities that need to update their drinking water and wastewater facilities.

We’re familiar with the argument that it’s “all our money,” and that the federal government shouldn’t be spending this money anyway.

But it is pointless for Maine not to recapture and reuse money its citizens and businesses send to Washington.

We see less direct economic return in Question 3, which would authorize $5 million in borrowing to purchase land and conservation easements to protect fish and wildlife habitat and conserve open farmland.

Worthy causes all, but the governor has correctly pointed out that when we are facing a large structural budget gap, we can only support those projects which have the largest and most immediate and positive economic impact.

The governor’s spokesperson, Adrienne Bennett, told the Sun Journal in October that “we owe about $500 million to our hospitals” and that we must pay these bills before borrowing more.

Actually, the state owes about $150 million, which would enable the hospitals to access more than $300 million they are owed by the federal government.

We have already urged the governor to use money obtained by renegotiating the state’s liquor contracts to pay the hospitals what we owe them.

And, again, the $300 million in federal money would help stimulate Maine’s economy.

We urge voters to vote “yes” on Questions 2, 4 and 5, while using their best judgment on the land conservation issue, Question 3.

The governor’s spokesperson has said the governor “doesn’t have a credit card mentality.”

Neither do we, but wise long-term investments can pay dividends that far exceed their initial value.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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