AUGUSTA — Focusing on roads, bridges and housing, the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee on Monday signed off on a $100 million state bond package that will go to voters in November for approval.

“These investments will address immediate needs in our communities and spur much-needed job growth across the state,” state Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the House chairwoman of the committee, said in a prepared statement. “They will help fix crumbling roads and bridges and also work to address the growing need for affordable housing for Maine seniors.”

The bond package includes two separate proposals of $85 million in improvements for roads and bridges and another $15 million for the construction of senior housing across the state.

In May, the national research group TRIP released a report that described Maine’s bridges and rural roads as among the worst in the nation. According to the report, 26 percent of Maine’s rural roads have pavement in poor condition and only seven other states have roads that are worse.

Maine also has a shortage of nearly 9,000 affordable rental homes for low-income older people, and that this shortfall will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 unless action is taken to address the problem, according to a report by independent national research firm Abt Associates, according to a release issued by Rotundo’s office.

“Targeted investments, which leverage matching government and private sector monies are something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can support,” state Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, said, also in a prepared statement. “Most importantly, strong investments will give our economy a significant boost to help our state thrive now and in the future. Maine’s strong credit rating and low interest rates make now the time to invest.”

Advertisement

According to the release, Maine ranks among the worst in the nation for job growth and wages, particularly in the construction industry. According to the Association of General Contractors America, Maine ranked 48th in the country for construction job growth in May.

Democratic lawmakers also pushed for vital investments in broadband, education and natural resources. However, the committee was unable to reach an agreement that would muster two-thirds support required to pass the bonds. The committee voted to carry over the measures and work toward an agreement in the second session of the Legislature next year.

“We hope we can come back next year and do more to ensure that we are making the best investments to grow jobs in our state,” committee member state Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, said. “We need to invest in our roads but we also need to invest in the places where they lead us — our schools and our businesses.”

Republicans on the committee said they wanted most of the state’s borrowing capacity to go towards upgrading and renovating the state’s roads and bridges.

The full Legislature will take up the proposals when it reconvenes on Tuesday.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: