“Maine has a lot of work to do in order to keep up with our rapidly changing world and to compete successfully in the global marketplace. Implementing a more substantial bond package that strengthens our economy through investments in infrastructure and technology is of the utmost importance to setting Maine and its people on course to a more prosperous future.”
Maine legislators recently passed two bond proposals: LD 1415, An Act To Authorize Two General Fund Bond Issues To Improve Highways, Bridges and Multimodal Facilities, provides $85 million (plus $121.5 million in matched federal funds) for a variety of infrastructure projects; LD 1205, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Support the Independence of Maine’s Seniors, contains $15 million to provide housing for older Mainers. We need a much more comprehensive and robust bond package in order to ensure that Maine is economically competitive in an increasingly globalized world. One of the most important contributions that bonds bring to the table is that they are proven job creators. A substantial bond package could create opportunities for hundreds, if not thousands, of Mainers to find work. Unfortunately, a mere $100 million in bonds is not enough to prepare Mainers for success in the future.
While LD 1415 does provide a much needed economic boost to repair Maine’s crumbling highways and bridges, it simply is not enough. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, 26% of Maine’s rural pavement is in poor condition (8th worst in the country) and 15% of Maine’s rural bridges are structurally deficient (9th worst in the country). According to MaineDOT, the state has $280 million of unmet capital need per year for highway and bridge repairs. Improving Maine’s roads and bridges would not only make driving safer, but would also reduce transportation costs and allow Maine’s businesses to be more efficient.
Moreover, funding for the technological resources necessary for innovation and collaboration should have also been included in our bond package. This package does not offer any investments in broadband infrastructure, which Maine desperately needs. Our internet speed lags behind the nation with the slowest average download rate of any state in the country at 17 Mbit/s. Not only that, but we are well below the global average of 24 Mbit/s. Making needed improvements to our broadband infrastructure is incredibly important to ensure Maine’s economic success in the future.
Maine also needs bonds directed towards protecting our natural resources and stimulating our alternative energy sector. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro/tidal, and biofuels have reached significant milestones in the past few years and are nearly cost competitive with fossil fuels. A thorough economic stimulus could be the necessary boost these sectors need in order to permanently propel them past fossil fuel sources in cost-effectiveness.
Many of you might be thinking, “Sure, investing in the future of Maine’s economy is a good idea—but can we actually afford to make these investments?”
There are a variety of measures that verify Maine’s capacity to afford a larger bond package, including:
- State bonds directed at improving infrastructure are matched by an even greater amount in federal funds.
- Of the New England states that cap the amount of debt service (Connecticut excluded), Maine’s debt to revenue cap is the lowest.
- Maine’s bond ratings have remained stable for decades with an overall rating of Aa2 (stable) for 2014.
Maine has a lot of work to do in order to keep up with our rapidly changing world and to compete successfully in the global marketplace. Implementing a more substantial bond package that strengthens our economy through investments in infrastructure and technology is of the utmost importance to setting Maine and its people on course to a more prosperous future.