October 27, 2012

Four bonds lined up for Nov. 6 state ballot

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- Voters headed to the polls Nov. 6 probably have heard of Question 1, the same-sex-marriage referendum, but there are four more questions on the statewide ballot that ask voters to approve $75.7 million in borrowing for various projects.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved the bonds, which will appear on the ballot as Questions 2-5.

If voters approve all four questions, the bonds will cost the state $75.7 million in principal and an estimated $18.7 million in interest, according to the treasurer's note that accompanies the questions. Interest was calculated at 4.5 percent over 10 years.

Here's a summary of each question:

* Question 2 is an $11.3 million higher-education bond. The breakdown is $7.8 million for an animal diagnostic laboratory at the University of Maine, $3 million for capital infrastructure improvements at Maine community colleges, including machine tool technology, and $500,000 for capital infrastructure improvements and equipment at Maine Maritime Academy.

* Question 3 is a $5 million bond for Land for Maine's Future, which will allow the state to buy land and conservation easements statewide to preserve land and water access, outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, deer wintering areas and for working farmland and working waterfronts. The state money will be matched by at least $5 million in private and public contributions, according to the ballot question language.

* Question 4 is a $51.5 million bond issue for transportation needs that will draw down an estimated $105.6 million in federal and other matching funds.

The total includes $41 million for highways and bridges, $300,000 for the LifeFlight Foundation for weather observation stations and helipads in rural areas, $3 million to dredge a commercial shipping channel at Searsport for potential port development on Sears Island, $2 million for equipment on Sears Island, $1 million for transit buses, $1.5 million for the Industrial Rail Access Program, $1.5 million for warehousing facilities at Eastport and $1.2 million for aviation facilities.

* Question 5 is a $7.9 million bond issue for drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Three groups have registered with the state to support various bonds, with the League of Young Voters backing all four questions, the Maine Economic Growth Coalition behind Question 2 and Citizens to Save Maine's Heritage supporting Question 3.

Also, the Mayors' Coalition, which includes Portland's Michael Brennan, Augusta's William Stokes and Waterville's Karen Heck, has endorsed Questions 2, 4 and 5, according to a news release.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which represents 5,000 businesses, is supporting all four questions.

"They are very important investments in our economy," said Dana Connors, chamber president. "I truly believe we can afford it. We not only need them; we can afford them."

The Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, based in Waterville, opposes the higher education bond and the water and sewer bond, saying they would "place Maine further into debt at a time when Maine taxpayers are least able to bear the additional burden," according to a chamber news release.

The chamber supports the transportation bond, as does the Maine Better Transportation Association.

A group called the Land for Maine's Future Coalition, which represents 275 organizations and businesses, including the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, is encouraging support for Question 3, the Land for Maine's Future bond.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com

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