AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine voters will now decide if the state should borrow money to put people back to work.
The Legislature has passed a compromise, $57.8 million dollar "Jobs Bond", most of which will be sent on to Maine voters in June. The new borrowing package was negotiated late Sunday afternoon in a special meeting between Governor John Baldacci, Senate President Libby Mitchell, Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, Senate Republican Leader Kevin Raye and House Republican leader Josh Tardy.
Last week, the Senate reached an impasse on a proposed $85 million jobs bond. Republicans said the plan was too expensive. And refused to support it. Since GOP votes are needed to reach the required two-thirds majority for bonds, the Senate tabled action until Monday.
The package includes:
Highways $24.8 million
Rail $ 16 million
Ocean Gateway "Mega-berth" $6.5 million
Small Harbor Improvements $500,000
Ocean Wind Power R&D $5 million
Maine Dental School $5 million
The rail portion includes $7 million to help pay for purchasing of the railroad line in Aroostook County presently owned by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad. That line is at risk of being torn up because the owner wants to abandon it.
Businesses in Aroostook County say the railroad is a vital lifeline for the County, and that 750 jobs are directly at risk.
To pay the approximately $20 million cost of buying the line and right of way, the state would also redirect money that was to go to the state's Rainy Day fund, and use about $3 million from a previous railroad bond issue, which has not yet been spent. Private companies that depend on the railroad are also expected to chip in a portion of the cost.
This new bond package also eliminates $13.5 million from bonds that had already been approved for June and November. Voters should see a total of four bond questions on their ballot in June. Legislative staffers say those questions will total $99.5 million.