For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The Maine House of Representatives on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve a series of bond bills that were the subject of recent negotiations between Republican and Democratic lawmakers and Governor Paul LePage. By mid-afternoon, four of the five bonds had been enacted, while a fifth, LD 1095, awaits votes that are planned for later in the afternoon.
"I'm glad we were able to work out a responsible bond package that all parties agreed on," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "Hopefully this bipartisan compromise sets a new tone for relations at the state House."
The final borrowing package totals $149.5 million and includes $100 million for highways, bridges, and multimodal transportation facilities (LD 1095); $15.5 million for community colleges (LD 636); $15.5 million for Maine's university system (LD 782), $4.5 million for the Maine Maritime Academy (LD 221), and $14 million for Maine National Guard armories (LD 245). All five bonds focus on infrastructure needs and will go before the voters for approval in November of this year.
Several Republican lawmakers voted against the bonds over fiscal concerns and a belief that infrastructure maintenance should be paid for out of the state's existing revenue.
"It's unfortunate that we're in a position where we're borrowing money to pay for roads and National Guard armories, but that's what the crowding-out effect of welfare spending has done to the state budget," said Fredette. "The bottom line is this work has to be done. Our roads cannot be neglected and our troops must have adequate facilities. However, in the long term, we must break this cycle of borrowing to pay for the most fundamental obligations of state government."
Fredette pointed to unmitigated growth at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as the primary culprit for the crowding-out effect. DHHS now swallows up almost half of the state budget, with MaineCare, the state's Medicaid program and the largest program at DHHS, having nearly doubled in cost since 1998. Maine also ranks second in the nation for food stamp enrollment, third for TANF cash welfare, and second for welfare spending overall. The state faces annual budget shortfalls caused by DHHS cost overruns.
"Only when both parties are willing to come to the table and have a serious conversation about Maine's welfare overspending can we begin to pay for infrastructure with our existing tax revenues," said Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton. "In the meantime, we will work to ensure that our roads and colleges receive the funding they need."
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793