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Maine Bond Impasse Resolved After Gov Meets With Legislative Leaders

The prospects for a possible bond package on the fall ballot improved today, after an impasse between legislative leaders and Gov. Paul LePage was overcome. Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Marks Eves asked for a meeting with LePage to discuss the issue - and he agreed. Mal Leary reports.

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Gov. LePage projected a conciliatory tone as he held an impromptu news conference and told reporters he agreed to meet with the leaders. He went to Alfond's office for the meeting early in the morning, setting out the parameters of what he would support for bonds. LePage says he told leadership that the total package cannot be larger than $150 million.

"I just gave them ideas. I told them there are limits that I have," LePage says. "And I don't know where they are going to come from. I have no clue what it is going to look like. I do know that it's going to be more than transportation. I do know that they have assured me that it's going to be infrastructure, so right now the leadership in the Legislature is working on it, and that is all I can tell you."

LePage has a $100 million transportation bond that is pending before the Legislature. He acknowledges that a compromise will have to be reached on how much borrowing will go for transportation projects, and how much will be dedicated to other infrastructure needs, such as water and sewer facilities, and buildings and renovations at the state's higher education institutions.

He has also placed another condition on the talks: that the Legislature act quickly so that the bonds can be on the November ballot.

"I told them what I was willing to look at, infrastructure bonds," he says. "And they have to be able to be done so that the military overseas can vote by November. In other words, they can't wait. We've got to be able to be in a position so they can vote."

Legislative leaders are being uncharacteristically quiet about the meeting and the bond discussions. Speaker Mark Eves would only confirm the meeting with the governor as he left President Alfond's office.

"We met, and we are trying to make sure that we can get a plan for bonding to the voters that puts people back to work," Eves says.

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, a Newport Republican, also declined to comment, beyond saying he was in the meeting with the governor and that bond talks are ongoing.

There is broad, bipartisan support for what's being called a "jobs bond." Supporters say that key investments will bring in additional federal funds, and that the construction projects will help spur economic growth in the state.

Lewiston Democrat Peggy Rotundo co-chairs the Legislature's Appropriations Committee, and spoke of the importance of a borrowing package earlier this week.

"Our economy is lagging behind - it's lagging behind other New England states, it's lagging behind most other states in the country," Rotundo said. "So we need the job creation, we need the economic development."

But even though talks are underway, it's far from certain a bond package can be worked out by leaders and the governor. Some Republican lawmakers have said that they would oppose any bonds. And there are Democrats who want a far larger borrowing package than the proposed $150 million.

What is certain is that it takes a two-thirds vote of those present and voting in both the House and Senate to send a bond proposal to the voters for their approval.


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