Governor Mills: Don’t forget to vote!

July 10, 2020

Tuesday, July 14 is primary election day here in Maine.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

This year, two critical bond questions are on the ballot, in addition to people running for office at every level. These bond issues will improve our infrastructure across the state of Maine.

Question One asks: Do you favor a $15 million bond issue to invest in high-speed internet [infrastructure] for unserved and underserved areas, to be used to match up to $30 million in federal, private, local or other funds?

Question Two asks: Do you favor a $105 million bond issue for improvement of highways and bridges statewide and for multimodal facilities and you know, certain other transportation projects, [or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation and active transportation projects,] to be used to match an estimated $275 million in federal and other funds?

I strongly urge Maine people to approve both these measures. They are so timely and so important.

These two bonds are at the heart of our economic recovery now. They will trigger millions in matching federal funds, money we won’t otherwise receive – and we will be borrowing at a time when interest rates are at an all time low. It’s simply the smart thing to do.

So, Question One.

High-speed internet as we all know is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.

The ability of a student to keep up in their homework, the ability of a doctor to monitor the health of a homebound senior, the ability of a person to work remotely, or of a business to start or grow in a rural area - all of that hinges on high speed internet access. Yet tens of thousands of Maine businesses and households across our state do not have even minimal levels of internet service.

As one owner of a small business put it to me recently, “You want to grow the economy?” she said, “Give us better internet.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of Maine families to transition quickly to remote learning and remote working, highlighting the need for reliable high speed internet access all across Maine.

This long overdue broadband bond, which will trigger $30 million in matching funds, will bring internet to some of the most needy communities in Maine — allowing businesses to expand and allowing people everywhere to connect with schools, medical care, families, friends, and markets around the country and around the world.

I strongly urge you to approve Question One.

What about Question Two, the transportation bond?

Well Maine is a rural state. We have one of the most dispersed populations of any state in the country, so maintaining transportation infrastructure is always a challenge.

A couple years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Maine roads a grade of D, gave our bridges a C-, and our railroads a C for their poor condition. 

While the Legislature continues to work on a bipartisan, long-term funding solution for our transportation infrastructure, this bond is critical to maintaining our roads and bridges across the state. Transportation bonds also typically trigger significant matching federal, local and private funds — in this case $275 million estimated.

While it’s always a good investment, this year’s transportation bond is more important now than ever before in light of the pandemic.

As the number of vehicles on Maine roads dropped by about half in recent months, gas revenues plummeted, and the highway fund has lost critical funding. The Maine Department of Transportation is bracing for a $56 million hit.

That’s an 11 percent drop in the next fiscal year — the deepest and most sudden drop of highway fund revenue in memory.

Cutting road projects for lack of funding will mean decreasing safety for travelers and eliminating jobs that are so critical to our economy.

So, I urge everyone to approve Question Two.

I usually vote in person on election day. I enjoy seeing folks at the polls. This year however, I voted absentee, and I urge everyone else to vote absentee as well. It is so important to do that to minimize your exposure to COVID-19 and to protect the health of poll workers and other voters and members of the public.

This primary election day because of an Executive Order I signed, you can vote absentee with no excuse, no reason given right up to 8 PM on Tuesday as long as you get your ballot into the polls by 8 PM Tuesday.

Polling places will be open on Election Day for those who choose to vote in person, but, according to the Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, voters should plan for a little additional wait time because of new procedures, like social distancing and sanitization measures, all intended to protect the health of all Maine people.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.

As always, please stay safe. And don’t forget to vote!