The timing of two recent news items prompts a discussion of the broader issue of what it takes to govern well.

First, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is releasing the 2010 Communities for Maine’s Future funds, suspended a year ago as a bargaining chip for ensuring payment to hospitals. That program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match to communities investing in their downtowns was a key priority outlined in the 2006 Charting Maine’s Future, for which GrowSmart Maine commissioned The Brookings Institution.

Most recently, members of the Legislative Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, legislative leadership and the administration worked together to craft a package of bonds to be presented to Maine voters in November.

As the full Legislature prepares to vote this week on new bonds, what has the impact been of the suspension of the CMF bond funds, which had already been awarded to 10 projects across the state?

In discussions with each of the 10 communities, we learned that all the projects will be completed, but with this suspension of funds, state government created delays, increased costs and decreased scale of projects for these communities and the businesses they hired. While some report being unaffected, others spoke of months-long delays as they worked to reconfigure their plans, increased costs due to interest and fees on unanticipated loans and lines of credit, and others of reducing the amount of work to fit a smaller finance package.

As GrowSmart Maine reported in our 2012 update on Charting Maine’s Future, it is essential that government at all levels offer a consistent, predictable and reasonable business environment. This ethic serves us well with investments, not just regulations. Consistent strategic state investments to match those of municipalities and the private sector are essential to strengthening Maine’s economy while sustaining our communities and natural landscapes.


These 10 projects, each of which required a one-to-one match from the towns, will be completed.

The impact of Gov. LePage’s tactics could be seen as short-lived. But will Maine businesses be as willing to bid on work that depends on a state match for funding? Will communities be as willing to invest in developing proposals to strengthen their infrastructure?

The trust that state government will do what it promises has been diminished. The impact of that is tough to measure.

The full Legislature will vote this week on a new bond package, with $100 million for transportation, $35.5 million for higher education infrastructure, and $14 million for National Guard armories.

GrowSmart Maine encourages all Maine legislators to support the negotiated work of their leaders and the LePage administration and send these bonds to voters for final approval on Nov. 5.

We commend the LePage administration and the Legislature for finding a middle ground all could endorse. That is good governing.

And we encourage all Mainers to continue to do what they have for so long, to lead by example when it comes to consistent support for strategic investments across the state.

Although GrowSmart Maine supported a broader package of bonds to include innovation, Land for Maine’s Future and clean water infrastructure, both green and built, we believe the investments to be presented are a solid sensible step for Maine’s economy, our communities and our environment.

Nancy Smith is executive director of GrowSmart Maine in Portland.

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