Legislators agree that the state’s roads need to be paved but are at odds on how to achieve that goal with shrinking gasoline tax revenues.

The Maine House on Feb. 17 killed a bill, LD 1501, that would have required that any surplus in the Maine Department of Transportation’s highway and bridge light capital program be used for maintenance paving of roads.

The House voted 82-53 to accept a motion made by Rep. Edward Mazurek, D-Rockland, to accept the ought not to pass recommendation of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. Mazurek serves on the Transportation Committee.

The Senate had also voted to kill the bill in a 19-15 vote on Feb. 11.

The Midcoast’s three state senators — Republicans Chris Rector of Thomaston, A. David Trahan of Waldoboro and Carol Weston of Montville — voted to keep the bill alive.

In the House, voting to kill the paving bill were Democratic Reps. Chuck Kruger of Thomaston, Mazurek, Andrew O’Brien of Lincolnville, House Speaker Hannah Pingree of North Haven, Joan Welsh of Rockport, John Piotti of Unity, and Veronica Magnan of Stockton Springs.

Voting to keep the bill alive were Republican Reps. Wes Richardson of Warren, Jayne Crosby Giles of Belfast, Jonathan McKane of Newcastle and Michael Thibodeau of Winterport.

Absent from the vote were Reps. Wendy Pieh, D-Bremen; and Elizabeth Miller, D-Somerville.

“We are facing a maintenance crisis regarding our roads,” Rector said. “I think the use of surplus funds should be dedicated to that crisis in expanding paving whenever possible. You only need to drive on most secondary roads around the state to understand the crisis we are facing and the need for additional maintenance paving dollars.”

Mazurek said he felt the law was redundant since the DOT does use any surplus for paving. He said he opposed the bill because it would tie the hands of the department if an unexpected project needed to be done such as repairing the sinkhole that developed Feb. 15 on Old County Road in Rockland.

Kruger said the bill was not a particularly good solution to the bad road blues.

Kruger said the bill was merely a cost-shift, meaning it would take money away from other essential areas such as bridges and apply it to road surfaces in select places.

“More important, I think the DOT should be making those allocation decisions, not the Legislature,” Kruger said.

Welsh said road work is woefully underfunded and there are many unmet needs. The Legislature should not tie the DOT’s hands with this bill, she said.

Economic development

Local legislators were also divided on LD 1389, which will create regional quality of place investment strategies for high-value jobs, products and services in Maine.

The Senate approved the bill Feb. 4 as did the House in an 80-56 vote on Feb. 17. There was no roll call vote in the Senate.

The bill creates a Maine Quality of Place Council consisting of six state agency representatives and six private citizens.

Rector said he helped develop the final version of the bill. He said the legislation is beneficial in coordinating the limited resources Maine has to grant and provide for a variety of community projects. He said the legislation means that community input will determine where any grant funds are directed. Furthermore, federal funds will be awarded to those states that have implemented such coordinated efforts so the state will have an advantage when federal grant funds are distributed.

“All this is being done within existing resources requiring no additional bureaucracy,” Rector said. “To me it is exactly what we should be doing in terms of getting the biggest ‘bang’ for our limited state grant dollars.”

Voting for the bill in the House were Reps. Kruger, Mazurek, O’Brien, Pingree, Welsh and Piotti.

Mazurek and Kruger both said the bill would help the economic development process in Maine.

Voting against the bill were Reps. Giles, Magnan, Richardson, McKane and Thibodeau. The legislators had not returned e-mail requests for comments by the morning of Feb. 19.

Absent from the vote were Pieh and Miller.