(AP) -With unofficial returns from 99 percent of Maine’s precincts, the bond package drew nearly 72 percent of the vote.
":These are wise and timely expenditures for Maine’s future, improving our way of life and economy,": Baldacci said, referring to the transportation bonds and $18.3 million in bonds for sewage-treatment and drinking water projects, which won voter approval with 64 percent voting yes.
With the bonds approved, attention shifted in the State House to the Highway Fund budget, which came up in the Senate on Wednesday but then was tabled.
The nearly $1.2 billion transportation spending package for the two-year period starting July 1 is separate from the state’s two-year, $6.3 billion general fund budget, which covers other non-transportation expenses and was signed into law last week.
The highway budget comes up as some lawmakers and advocacy groups worry that transportation revenues are losing pace with needs and are expected to decline over time. What is viewed by many as a funding crisis is due in large part to the fact that motorists are using more fuel-efficient vehicles. That cuts into fuel tax revenues, a staple of highway funding.
Hoping to address highway funding needs, the proposed two-year budget includes a provision for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, or ":GARVEE": bonds, which the state could issue in anticipation of expected federal transportation funds.
Legislation separate from the budget, still being worked on in the Transportation Committee, also addresses longer-term funding needs.
The bill seeks to phase in a shift of some general fund revenues to transportation, increasing gradually to a biennial total of more than $100 million within a decade. The legislation also calls for increases in registration and title fees, which supporters say are currently below the New England average, as well as higher vanity and specialty license fees.
In addition, the bill seeks to shift larger shares of funding for state police from the highway fund to general fund.
The bill sets goals to guide transportation investment, such as reconstruction of 734 miles of deficient arterial and major collector highways by 2027.