Recent unemployment figures remind us that Maine’s jobs problem continue. In their rush to pass more budget-crippling tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy before the session ends, Maine Legislators seem to have lost sight of a much more economically sound priority-passage of a robust bond package to fund infrastructure, R&D and other investments to spur growth, create jobs and make Maine more competitive.
In 2011, legislators bowed to Governor LePage’s wishes and for the first time in recent history did not send any bonds to voters for their consideration. The chief argument was the erroneous assumption that Maine’s existing debt is unsustainable. In fact, Maine has a well-earned reputation for fiscally responsible debt management. As recently as spring 2011, Moody’s Investment Service, one of the nation’s most highly respected rating agencies, stated that “Maine continues its conservative approach to debt, with an aggressive payout structure and capacity to accommodate unforeseen borrowing needs.”
One need only drive Maine’s roads to see just how desperate the need is for funds to make long overdue repairs. Maine’s crumbling bridges, outdated and over-capacity water and sewage systems, and critical gaps in broadband and other communications systems show the need for a long-range, comprehensive approach to infrastructure financing. With interest rates near historic lows and the prospect for leveraging significant additional federal matching funds the time is ripe to move forward on a strong, balanced bond proposal.
In an op ed column in today’s (Lewiston) Sun Journal, MECEP Executive Director Garrett Martin makes the case that:
“Passing a healthy, responsible bonds package now will accelerate Maine’s economic recovery by creating thousands of much-needed jobs. Low interest rates mean a good return on investment for taxpayers. Weak labor and capital markets mean bonds are unlikely to ‘crowd out’ private investment. At a more fundamental level, a smart bonds package is about making the public investments that Maine businesses need to be competitive. Bad infrastructure is bad for business. World-class businesses need world-class communications and transportation infrastructure.”