The political posturing continues in Augusta over millions of dollars in bonds the governor is refusing to sign off on. There is one thing both sides agree on, jobs are hanging in the balance.
Monday, Democratic leaders in Augusta once again called on Governor LePage to release millions of dollars in voter approved bonds. LePage has refused to do so until lawmakers pass his bill putting $21 million back in the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the “rainy day fund,” to preserve the states credit rating. Late Friday, that bill was passed out of committee and is on its way to the House floor.
“It’s a good compromise proposal,” said Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “It gives the governor everything he has asked for. There are no more excuses. He needs to release the voter approved bonds.”
The problem is it gives the governor more than he asked for. $18 million more. That’s the amount of new spending Democrats tacked onto the bill. LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett says Democrats are “addicted to spending” and are playing “bridge-to-nowhere politics.” Bennett says the bill is “unacceptable.”
Senate President Justin Alfond said the bill was about to pass unanimously out of committee until Republican leadership intervened.
“We need to figure out how we have balanced budgets and so we put together these two ideas with our Republican colleagues every step of the way. And it wasn’t until Republican leadership came in with a heavy hand and said no you can’t vote for this that the divide happened.”
House Republican Leader Ken Fredette says he doesn’t tell committee member show to vote.
“Clearly Senator Alfond has no idea how the Appropriations Committee works,” Fredette said.
Republicans say the critical component to all of this is getting the bonds out as soon as possible and a simple “yes” vote on the governors bill would accomplish that. He says this new amended version of the bill has no chance of passing and only wastes more valuable time.
“As soon as we saw almost $20 million in new spending added to it, it became very clear that the governor most likely would veto that. as a result of that we talked to the governors office and they confirmed that he would most likely veto that,” Fredette said.
The bill is expected to be fast-tracked to the House floor this week, but it appears the only way to get the bonds released is for lawmakers to pass the governor’s bill as it was written with no attachments.