Bonds or borrowing?

By Rep. Sherm Hutchins | Sep 12, 2019

Gov. Mills called a special session last month to consider bond issues. The four bond proposals she submitted were largely a rework of a single $239 million package that we considered last June. Bonds approved by the Legislature would then be considered by voters in November, with voter-approved bonds to be sold in June 2020.

Many legislators thought separating the transportation borrowing of $105 million from the package would be a better idea. The two-year state budget is $800 million over the last two-year budget, which is an 11% increase in spending. Many of us thought this proposed borrowing (bonds), or some of it, should have been a part of that extra $800 million amount. However, the majority Democrats wanted all the extra bonds or nothing. They got nothing because they were not able to get a two-thirds majority.

During the special session, the Legislature did pass a transportation bond of $105 million, some housekeeping items, and a bill to help Maine Ocean School, and the Senate passed a ranked-choice voting expansion for presidential primaries. Ranked-choice voting is a confusing method of voting and counting ballots, which should be ended as soon as possible. Expanding this convoluted new method of voting to presidential primaries, at a time when we are already concerned with election tampering, will only increase distrust.

A Blue Ribbon Committee is now studying how we fund our transportation system. I am hopeful that they will come up with a recommendation that will make us less reliant on the borrowing and bonding of the past couple of decades. The transportation bond we approved, if supported by the voters this November, will be sold in June 2020. The bond will require some lead time for the steps needed for construction bids and planning for the next construction season. Other unsuccessful bond requests can be studied in more detail in January 2020, with plenty of time for voter consideration in June — and in time for the 2020 summer bonding cycle.

My concerns are that the new, nearly $8 billion budget that scooped up some one-time funds and then spends more than 99% of anticipated state tax revenues and fees, during this two-year cycle, keeps pushing an ever-increasing state government. This large increase in state spending will be setting a new baseline for the next Legislature and will be very difficult to maintain. The national and state economy needs to remain strong to discourage tax hikes. Tax increases slow the economy and state tax revenue.

Another concern of mine is the 400 legislative bills that were carried over until next session. In a normal year, most of these bills would have died for lack of funding. This time, when the money ran out, they were carried over on the final day’s late-night session. This is hundreds of millions of dollars in potential new spending, and more bond proposals to consider in January.

Hang onto your checkbook; we are due to reconvene in January.

All parties need to work on a more thoughtful and prudent budget that will work toward Maine’s future.

Republican Rep. Sherm Hutchins represents Maine House District 131 (Dedham, Orland, Otis, Penobscot, Prospect, Stockton Springs and Verona Island). He lives in Penobscot.


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Comments (3)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 12, 2019 18:27

Hey Ralphie, you couldn't string two sentences together to create a cogent thought. I would guess either you are a native Mainer or been here too long because you're showing signs of cranial inelasticity, aka thick in the head, as in can you walk and chew gum at the same time or is that asking to much of you.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Sep 12, 2019 16:49

You have finally found a niche for yourself in the comment section. Best you leave the other stuff that you know little about and offer nothing in kind.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 12, 2019 14:18

Bonds or borrowing? Neither!!! Look what happened in Rockland. The Councilors and Administration have been derelict in their civic responsibility to adequately budget and fund road improvements on an ongoing basis, then tried to get a $ 10 million bond approved to bail them out. The effort failed and rightfully so. I've got two ideas for the Blue Ribbon Committee (gosh, I love the sound of that name-sounds really important). Stop fooling around and pass the Local Option Sales Tax, aka LOST. Many states, including Georgia, had SPLOST or Special Purpose LOST. They've had it for decades and it works. Sales taxes were increased from 6 to 7% and millions were generated. Nobody missed the extra penny. We've got 38 million visitors coming to Maine each year that use our roads but never contribute money to offset the degradation of their condition. Then, there is the onslaught of RV's visiting, some of which are the 50,000 pound Class A behemoths with tandem axles pulling a vehicle. A special tax should be levied at every campground in Maine against RV's checking in based on class of RV's from pop-ups to the monsters. And they all seem to travel US1 right up the coast to Bar Harbor. Look at poor lowly Searsport that has the worst stretch of US1 right through the middle of town from Kittery to Ellsworth and what is DOT doing about fixing that stretch? And then the grand daddy of them all, the useless Excise Tax, that 85 year old dinosaur that is supposed to be charged for "the privilege of operating a motor vehicle on public ways". That is a joke because all the money generated by the excise tax is dumped into the general fund (aka, the black hole) of every municipality in Maine and not earmarked for roads maintenance or improvements. So take their two ideas back to the Blue Ribbon Committee and save yourself a lot of aggravation.

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