On Monday, Aug. 26, my colleagues and I returned to the State House to vote on a suite of bonds that would fund key investments in Maine’s economy. While I’m disappointed three of those bonds didn’t garner the support needed to send them to you, the voters, on the November ballot, I’m glad to say the bond funding maintenance projects for our roads and bridges received strong bipartisan support.

Driving back and forth to work and Augusta, I’ve hit the same potholes you have. While Mainers are certainly rugged folk, our highways shouldn’t be in the same rugged condition. Road crews in our communities are ready to get to work making much-needed repairs. Many of them were anxiously waiting for us to pass the transportation bond, so they could plan their season. I’m glad my fellow lawmakers and I were able to come through for them.

The bond you’ll see on your ballots in November will invest $105 million in pressing repairs, upgrades and maintenance for highways, bridges, culverts and working waterfronts. It also will draw down an additional $137 million in other funds. That’s a great deal for Maine, and I’m proud to have supported this measure.

However, I was truly disappointed to see the other bonds we considered fail to get the votes needed to go to you for your approval. In particular, I’m frustrated a bond to invest in career and technical education in Maine didn’t pass.

For too long, our young people have been told that the only way to get ahead is with a four-year degree. Now, we find that not only has this seriously disadvantaged so many kids with piles of student loans, we’ve also created huge gaps in our workforce. Maine needs plumbers, electricians and mechanics as much as it needs doctors.

Both career and technical education and a traditional college education can provide students with good-paying jobs. However, career and technical education has been severely undervalued and under supported. As a board member and chair of United Technologies Center in Bangor, I see firsthand the value of career and technical education for our students, our workforce and our community. I also see what happens when we don’t make critical investments in these programs.

Failing to turn the tide and invest in career and technical education continues a pattern that hurts young people looking to find a good career, and employers looking to hire the workers they need to grow their business. Failing to invest in CTE programs is failing to invest in our economy – period.

I will continue to voice my support for career and technical education programs both in the legislature and in our community. Fortunately, my bill –  LD 1606, “An Act To Increase Funding for Career and Technical Education Programs” – has been carried over to the next legislative session. I look forward to taking it up again in January and advocating to give these invaluable programs the funding and support they need to thrive.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you. I can be reached by email at James.Dill@legislature.maine.gov or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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