Governor Mills has released her plan for the supplemental budget and it included less than $10 million to pay for the $462 million she acknowledges is needed to repair Maine’s roads and bridges. By spending the entire surplus on other programs, the governor abandoned her stated commitment to use General Fund money to finally solve the transportation shortfalls.
For months, the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding has been working in good faith to find a solution to Maine’s transportation that included substantial General Fund money rather than relying solely on higher taxes, tolls, and huge borrowing packages.
The Governor’s announcement that she would commit only $10 million to transportation, and some unknown amount of that which will go to her climate initiatives, makes it clear that she never intended to follow through on her commitment to paying for roads and bridges using some of the record amount of revenue the state now has available, including a surplus of $126 million.
The governor failed to place significant General Fund money for transportation in her eight billion dollar proposed biennial budget last year.* Despite assurances in her State of the State Address just two weeks ago, she has now chosen to ignore that commitment to provide significant funding in her supplemental budget as well.
Having left no way to pay for roads and bridges without raising taxes and tolls, or borrowing huge sums of money to do so, she has undercut the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission which had been negotiating in a bipartisan, good faith manner.
Two weeks ago, the governor admonished the legislature, saying “Let’s fix the damn roads” and “I’m not opposed to using some general fund dollars to improve our infrastructure.” With the same assurances from her DOT commissioner, the Blue Ribbon Commission has continued to work only to find the other side had no intention of following through on their promises.
Now that the governor has committed the entire general fund surplus to other priorities, there are no options left but to allow our roads to continue to decline, or raise taxes and add to the state’s $7.7 billion debt to get the job done.
Since she failed to fund roads in her initial budget and again in her supplemental, there is no reason to believe that the governor will ever fund them properly in the future. Having spent more than eight billion taxpayer dollars on two budgets, she has decided that roads and bridges are simply not a priority.
Next week, Republicans will bring forward a proposal to fund a substantial portion of our transportation infrastructure through General Fund dollars and begin to take seriously the need to get state government off of its addiction to borrowing. Absent the governor’s leadership on this critical issue, we must act on our own to move this issue forward.
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