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Maine Jobs Bond Issue, Question 3 (June 2010)

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The Maine Jobs Bond Issue, Question 3 appeared on the June 8, 2010 ballot in Maine as a legislatively-referred state statute where it was approved by 58%.[1][2][3]

The proposed bond package included: $24.8 million for highways, $16 million for rails, $6.5 million for the Ocean Gateway Deep Water Pier in Portland, $500,000 for small harbor improvements, $5 million for Ocean Wind Power R&D and $5 million for the improved dental services. Funds dedicated to rails included funds to purchase the railroad line in Aroostook County.[4] The $57.8 million bond package was referred to the ballot following a 30-5 vote in the Senate and a 102-44 vote in the House.[5][6][7]

Aftermath

Despite the approval of Question 3, the purchase of a 233-mile-long rail line in northern Maine remains in limbo. According to reports the anticipated purchase price for the rail line is $17 million, however before the deal is made a federal agency has to approve the company's request to abandon the line. Despite continued negotiations, one thing is certain, the state of Maine will not be running the railroad. "I know there's still people who think DOT is going to run a railroad -- no, we don't do that, we're not allowed to do that," said Transportation Commissioner David Cole. According to reports the state transportation officials and the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway had until July 9, 2010 to reach final negotiations regarding the purchase price of the rail line.[8]

Election results

Question 3
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 183,978 58.1%
No132,43941.9%

Official election results via the Maine Secretary of State.

Text of measure

The ballot language read as follows:[9]

Do you favor a $47,800,000 bond issue to create jobs in Maine through improvements to highways, railroads and marine facilities, including port and harbor structures, and specifying the allocation of $4,000,000 of the transportation bond approved by voters in November 2009 to be used for capital rail purposes?

Background

Initially the package called for an $85 million bond but was later reduced after the Senate failed to approve the package in early April 2010. The $85 million proposal included: $31 million for highway or road projects, $9 million for port or harbor improvements, $17 million for environmental and energy projects, and $17 million to purchase 240 miles of rail lines between Millinocket and Madawaska from the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway.[10]

Throughout the legislative session several bond proposals were made including a "jobs bond" proposal that proposed a $99.2 million that included funds for highways, rails, energy conservation and clean water projects.[11][12] Specifically the bond would have included: $47.5 million for highway construction, $20 million to purchase the abandoned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway in Aroostook County, and $5 million for drinking-water and wastewater improvement projects.[13]

Support

Gov. John Baldacci, proponent of the bond measure, argued that the measure will help create 1,898 jobs and preserve existing jobs in Maine. Of the proposal, Sen. Kevin Raye said, "It was important to me to reduce the unaffordable $85 million bond package down to a fiscally responsible level. At the same time, I worked to ensure that $4 million for vital improvements to Route 1 Down East were included within that smaller amount. This is a very good outcome for Washington County residents."[14]

The Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce voted May 20, 2010 to endorse the four bond measures that appeared on the statewide ballot. According to board Chair Michael Ballesteros the bonds were in line with the chamber's interest's of the state's business community. The Portland Chamber of Commerce also supportsedthe bond measures.[15]

Gov. John Baldacci supported the four June 2010 bond measures. In his weekly radio address he said the bonds would help boost the economy, help small businesses and support energy independence. Baldacci noted that he understood the reluctance to vote in favor of the measures but argued that Maine was conservative with borrowing and paid its debt in less than half the time it took most states.[16][17]

Tactics and strategies

In May 2010 Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said a coalition was being formed to launch an advertising campaign in support of the bond proposals. According to Connors they were planning to do some "advertising." Connors argued that the bonds would help create jobs.

Some supporters said that although they did support the proposed bonds on the June 8, 2010 ballot, they worried that voters wouldn't readily approve them, particularly because the state and the country were coming out of a recession. Chris Hall, vice president of the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce said that supporters had to work hard to convince voters. "We did have some members on our board that opposed our endorsement because of those same concerns. But most, more than 60 percent, supported all of the bond package," he said.[18]

Opposition

Opponents of the proposed bond measure questioned whether the state should take on more debt while the state was trying to recover from drops in revenue and a difficult economy. Rep. Robert Nutting argued that the proposed bond could have waited another year.[19]

The Maine Heritage Policy Center was opposed to the bonds that appeared on the June 2010 ballot. Center President Tarren Bragdon said that while bonds were appropriate for some state needs, Maine had too much debt. "It’s our hope that the voters will reject some of these and send a strong message to the politicians in Augusta that if you are not going to be responsible with our credit card, then we will take matters into our own hands and vote no. We are going to say no more debt, not now."[18][20]

Scott Moody, an economist for the center, wrote a study which ultimately concluded that Maine's debt would leave lawmakers with two options: reduce spending or raise taxes. "Before any new debt is approved, Mainers should insist that legislators deal with these ballooning, unfunded retirement liabilities first and foremost," said Moody.[21]

Media endorsements

Main article: Endorsements of Maine ballot measures, 2010

Support

  • The Bangor Daily News supported Bond Questions 2, 3, 4 and 5. In an editorial the board said, "States, unlike the federal government, are unable to spend into the red. That’s a good thing. But with interest rates at historic lows, these bonds are a bargain for building and rebuilding Maine. They should be passed."[22]
  • The Brunswick Times Record supported Bond Question 3. "Approving Question 3 will create jobs and promote business and job growth in all regions of our state. These are well-conceived strategic investments — and they represent a mere fraction of what we should be spending to improve our transportation networks statewide," said the editorial board.[23]
  • The Journal Tribune supported the bond question. In an editorial the board said, "Last week the Journal Tribune endorsed the four bond issues on Maine’s June 8 ballot. We recommended “Yes” votes on Questions 2-5, proposed bond issues that serve the interests of Maine’s people."[24]

Polls

See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
  • A October 11-15, 2010 poll by Pan Atlantic SMS Group revealed that 56.3% of polled voters supported Question 3, while 34.7% were opposed and 9% were undecided. The poll surveyed a total of 501 likely voters by telephone and had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.[25]
Legend

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
Oct. 11-15, 2010 Pan Atlantic SMS Group 56.3% 34.7% 9% 501


Path to the ballot

See also: Maine legislatively-referred state statutes

To place the measure on the ballot, the measure was required to receive at least a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.[26] On April 12, 2010 the Senate voted 30-5 and the House voted 102-44 in favor of the placing the measure on the ballot.[27]

See also

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Additional reading

References

  1. Associated Press,"Mainers Approve All 4 Bonds On Ballot," June 9, 2010
  2. Morning Sentinel,"Mainers approve all 4 bonds on ballot," June 9, 2010
  3. Business Week,"Maine Voters Halt Income Tax Cut in Ballot Question (Update2)," June 9, 2010
  4. WCSH6,"Voters to decide $57.8M jobs bond," April 13, 2010
  5. Associated Press,"Bond deal gets final legislative approval in Maine," April 12, 2010
  6. The Portland Press Herald,"Bond package worth $58 million gets OK," April 13, 2010
  7. Morning Sentinel,"Plan would fund transportation projects," June 1, 2010
  8. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Deadline Looms as State Negotiates to Purchase Northern Maine Rail Line," June 21, 2010
  9. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Order of June Ballot Questions Determined," April 14, 2010
  10. Bangor Daily News,"Baldacci outlines bond plan," March 11, 2010
  11. Associated Press,"$99M Maine bond package proposed," March 2, 2010
  12. Bangor Daily News,"Democrats present jobs bond package," March 3, 2010
  13. Waterworld,"Lawmakers propose bond to spur job growth," accessed March 5, 2010
  14. Bangor Daily News,"Bond items includeDown East road funds," April 17, 2010
  15. Associated Press,"Regional Chamber of Commerce endorses Maine bonds," May 20, 2010
  16. The Portland Press Herald,"Baldacci asks voters to support bond issues," May 22, 2010
  17. Associated Press,"Gov Urges Mainers To Vote For Bond Proposals," June 5, 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 Bangor Daily News,"Bond backers fear rejection at the polls," May 20, 2010
  19. Associated Press,"Bond deal gets final legislative approval in Maine," April 12, 2010
  20. Maine Public Broadcasting Network,"Bond Package: Desperately Needed, or Dragging Maine into Sea of Debt?," May 18, 2010
  21. Bangor Daily News,"Bond question advocates getting word out," June 2, 2010
  22. Bangor Daily News,"Bonds Will Boost Maine," May 26, 2010
  23. The Times Record,"‘Yes’ on Question 3," June 1, 2010
  24. The Journal Tribune,"An investment in harnessing offshore wind energy," May 28, 2010
  25. [http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/panatlanticmaine.pdf Pan Atlantic SMS Group," The 45th Pan Atlantic SMS Group Omnibus Poll," retrieved November 1, 2010]
  26. Associated Press,"Maine Gov. Baldacci unveils $79M bond package," March 10, 2010
  27. The Portland Press Herald,"Bond package worth $58 million gets OK," April 13, 2010