Maine voters very likely to pass $50 million bond in June
AUGUSTA — Maine election officials are readying for an election in just over three weeks that you already may have forgotten about — if you knew about it at all. Mainers will vote June 13 on a $50 million bond issue for economic development, $45 million of which would be earmarked for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades in seven targeted sectors, including aquaculture, forestry, agriculture and composite materials.
That money would be administered by the Maine Technology Institute and would have to be matched on a one-to-one basis with federal or other funds while the other $5 million in the bond package would be given to small businesses showing potential for growth and public benefit.
The Maine electorate loves bonds, passing 82 percent of the ones proposed since 1990, according to research from University of Maine at Farmington political scientist James Melcher, who noted that a June bond issue hasn’t been defeated in Maine during that time period.
In case you needed any more certainty that this one’s going to pass, Maine has passed 16 of 18 economic development bonds since 1990. They’ve passed with a 55 percent vote, on average. They’re Maine’s best-performing widely used type of bond, passing a greater percentage of the time than transportation, education or natural resources bonds.
The bond had wide support in the Legislature, passing with just 10 votes against it in the House of Representatives after testimony from A-list constituent groups, including the University of Maine, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and The Jackson Laboratory.
The sometimes bond-averse Gov. Paul LePage signed it into law contingent on this spring’s election, which was a change of tune of sorts after her vetoed a similar $20 million bond proposed by the Legislature, arguing it should have funded this through appropriations and not borrowing.
It’s not a bad argument. If this bond passes, Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes estimates the state will pay nearly $14 million in interest to borrow the money. The Legislature could just appropriate $50 million, but they’d have to find other money to do so. Borrowing allows the state to pay this money back over time.
That’s why it’s such an attractive option for politicians, even those as conservative as the governor. And nothing’s sinking this question based on Maine’s history.
This item by Michael Shepherd was originally published in Daily Brief, a free political newsletter distributed Monday through Friday by the Bangor Daily News to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more of today’s Daily Brief, click here. To have the Daily Brief delivered daily to your inbox, click here.
Citizen’s guide to special election available online
AUGUSTA — As the June 13 special referendum election approaches,Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is reminding all Maine voters of an informational resource that can help them make informed decisions at the polls. The 2017 Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election is available at: http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming/index.html
The guide is intended to provide as much information as possible so that voters have a convenient resource to educate themselves before casting their ballot. The secretary of state’s office, in collaboration with the attorney general, state treasurer and office of fiscal and program review, prepared the guide as an unbiased and non-partisan review of the bond issue that voters will consider at the polls this June.
Question 1 asks: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”
In the guide, voters can read the full text of the bond proposal legislation, the fiscal impact information, and an analysis of the intent and content of the bond question. Election law also allows for citizen advocacy statements to be published supporting or opposing questions, which provides voters with those viewpoints to consider, but no public comments were filed in support or opposition to this question.
Voters can request absentee ballots online via the secretary of state’s website at: http://www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl . Ballots can also be requested in person, by phone or by mail from the municipal clerk. Contact information for municipal clerks is available at: http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/munic.html