AUGUSTA — The Maine Legislature on Friday passed a package of bonding bills that will ask voters to borrow as much as $150 million in the state’s next budget cycle.

Included in a series of bills that were approved by lawmakers is $100 million for highways, bridges, ports and intermodal facilities, $45 million to fuel a fund managed by the Maine Technology Institute and $5 million aimed at luring entrepreneurs to the state.

The House voted 147-4 to approve LD 1694, which would ask voters whether the state should sell $100 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure improvements.

The bill stalled earlier in the week in the budget-writing Appropriations Committee when Democrats on the panel urged their colleagues to support a study to find additional ways to fund highway infrastructure improvements in light of declining gas tax revenue caused by improving automobile fuel efficiency.

Lawmakers decided instead to go forward with the bond and to have the Legislature’s Transportation Committee use its remaining meetings this year to develop a plan and recommend legislation for 2017.

The Senate later approved the transportation bonding bill on a vote 0f 32-2, sending it to Gov. Paul LePage, who is expected to sign it and send the question to the ballot.


The House also voted 134-10 in favor of a bill to ask voters to borrow up to $50 million to fund the Maine Technology Institute and other research and development grants. That measure was also approved in the Senate on a vote of 28-4.

It’s largely thought to be intended to provide some matching funds for the development of a new Jackson Laboratory in Ellsworth to raise research mice. The project could bring as much as $300 million of matching investment to the region and create as many 350 good-paying jobs.

“Research and development are critical for attracting new jobs to our state, and to training the workforce to fill those jobs,” Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, the lead Senate Democrat on the Labor, Research, Commerce and Economic Development Committee, said following the vote. “Maine has lagged behind the rest of New England in these critical investments for our future, and I’m happy to support this bond to get us back on track.”

Lawmakers were scurrying Friday to complete their work before their constitutional adjournment date of April 20. The Legislature is also likely to reconvene later in April to take action on any vetoes issued by LePage over the next 10 days.

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