Legislative and business leaders stood tall behind Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell and Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree on March 2, when they unveiled the details of a jobs bond at the Statehouse.

The intent of the bond is to put people to work this summer building and rebuilding the state’s infrastructure. Their goal is for the $99 million package to be voted on in June, in time for the construction season.

“We all share the same goals, Republicans and Democrats alike,” said Mitchell. “We know how important it is to get people back to work. This is urgent, this is now. It cannot wait.”

The $99 million package would be divided as follows:

  • $2,120,000 for Drinking Water State Revolving Fund
  • $3,050,000 for Waste Water State Revolving Loan Fund
  • $1,500,000 for Overboard Discharge, Underground Oil Tanks and Culvert Replacement
  • $15,000,000 for K-12 School Renovation Energy Improvements
  • $5,000,000 for Higher Education Competitive Grants for Energy Improvements
  • $47,500,000 for Highway Construction
  • $25,000,000 for Rail, Aroostook and Androscoggin

“We can confidently say it would put thousands back to work,” Pingree said.

“It is something we can’t afford not to do,” said Mitchell.

Several professionals in attendance said roads as well as water and waste facilities were long overdue for improvements.

Others said freight rail service was necessary in Androscoggin and Aroostook, and thanked Mitchell and Pingree for the proposal. They said it was vital to get lumber, heating fuels, wood chips and other supplies to that region.

“This is a timely and targeted jobs package that will make key investments in our infrastructure and keep Maine people working,” said Pingree. “Unemployment is too high. We need to ensure that this summer is a busy one for Maine’s construction industry. Maine needs to show the way and pass a jobs bond that will put money into the economy this summer.”

Said Mitchell, “Despite what experts say, the economy is not growing if people cannot find work. In these difficult times, we have to take prudent steps by making investments that get people working. The recession is forcing us to make difficult budget decisions, but cutting and finding efficiencies can only get us so far. To truly get our state back on the road to prosperity, we must do all we can to create good-paying jobs. This jobs bond does just that.”

Not everyone agreed with Mitchell’s assessment. In a press release issued after the announcement of the jobs bond, the Maine Heritage Policy Center said bond proposals such as this are “burying Maine under a mountain of debt.”

“Maine’s current public debt already burdens each Maine household by more than $27,000 but that doesn’t seem to be enough,” said Tarren Bragdon, chief executive officer of the MHPC, in the press release, which cited figures from the state’s Office of the Treasurer.

In the press release, MHPC stated proponents of the jobs bond are ignoring economic analysis that indicates such proposals do not create long-term job opportunities. MHPC also said the legislators “failed to address how these new debt proposals would be funded,” and that there is no money in the general fund to pay for it.

“At a time when Maine families and small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, Ms. Mitchell wants to further burden our entrepreneurs and future generations with higher debt,” said Bragdon in the press release. “‘No More Debt’ should be the principle of this Legislature.”