What Maine voters should know about Question 2

Question 2 asks Mainers to approve money for repairs for transportation like roads and bridges.
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 4:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - When Mainers head to the polls on Tuesday, they’ll be asked to vote on three referendum questions.

Question 2 asks Mainers to approve money for repairs for transportation like roads and bridges.

The question reads: Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue to build or improve roads, bridges, railroads, airports, transit facilities and ports and make other transportation investments, to be used to leverage an estimated $253,000,000 in federal and other funds?

“Every Mainer is affected every day by transportation, but you just don’t think of it. It’s kind of a front of the shelf issue, but I think the voters are pretty smart about it, but I think they know what affects them every day because they’ve been supportive,” said Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner, Bruce Van Note.

Between January 2007 and January 2021, Maine voters have cast ballots on 41 bond issues, totaling $1.55 million.

On Tuesday, voters will be asked to approve a bond measure addressing transportation.

A “yes” vote supports $100 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects, with $85 million for highways and bridges and $15 million for rail, aviation, ports, and active transportation.

The bond would leverage an estimated $253 million in federal and non-state funding through matching grants and programs.

A “no” vote opposes the bond.

While many in Maine agree improvements need to be made to infrastructure, there’s disagreement on how to pay for it.

MDOT Commissioner Van Note says transportation bonds go back decades in Maine, and they seem to be working with voters.

“We’re still coming off a pandemic. We still have to make sure Maine gets back to work. We still have to balance budgets responsibly, so this level of bonding with low interest rates is the right thing,” he said.

Sen. Matt Pouliot represents District 15. He was the only state senator to vote against LD 1702, which was the bill to put the question on the ballot.

He believes Maine needs to create new habits and pool cash from the General Fund and Transportation Fund to pay for transportation improvements.

We have a budget that is excess of $8 billion in the state of Maine,” he said. “I think that we can find the political will to allocate $100 million of that over $8 billion to pay for roads and bridges that everybody uses. Yes, interest rates are low right now, and it’s attractive to borrow money. However, we are then obligating ourselves to debt service- interest payments that we have to make in the future from the General Fund which takes away resources we could be putting towards this transportation infrastructure in the future, paying cash or putting those dollars at work in other areas of state government that we have to pay for.”

“Interest rates are at like 2% or less for this money,” said Van Note. “Our construction inflation is many multiples of that every year. So, by actually paying the 2% and getting the project now, you’re actually saving money than if you just waited to try and save it all up and do it seven or eight years from now.”

All 11 bond issues in the last 14 years were approved.

Pouliot believes this one will pass, too.

However, he hopes he can get Maine voters and fellow lawmakers to understand there are other routes to take in paying for improvements.

“This is something that Maine has been doing for awhile, and I think that there’s a certain level of, “hey, this is what we’ve been doing, so we’re going to continue doing it.” It doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing,” said Pouliot.

A link to the legislation on Question 2 can be found here.

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