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Governor’s Address: Special Session reminds us that compromise is not inevitable, no matter the merits

Two months ago, Republicans in the Legislature said that the price of my original bond proposal was too high. So, I reduced it.

They also said there should be four separate bills instead of one. So, we broke it into four different bills for them to vote on.

I then personally called lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, invited their questions, and offered to accommodate any objections. I thought we had arrived at a practical, responsible compromise that should have garnered bipartisan support.

Well, surprise, surprise, the bonds did not all pass.

The first bond that lawmakers considered during the Special Session on Monday, August 26 provided funding for equipment for our career and technical centers, for refurbishing and modernizing Maine National Guard facilities, and for expanding broadband to rural Maine.

Career and technical education centers haven’t gotten significant funding for equipment since 1998. Our National Guardsmen deserve mission-ready facilities, not aging and outdated ones. Key areas of our state still don’t have adequate internet to do things like telehealth and tele-education or just conduct normal business. 

That’s what we need to attract new businesses and young families and to support existing industries, including farming, fishing, and forestry, all of whom have to be online. They need internet access.

The second bond I proposed included funds for municipal wastewater treatment, to remediate hazardous waste sites, and for loans for heat pumps for Maine homeowners.

Maine’s wastewater treatment systems are desperately in need of updating. There are now more than 250 hazardous waste sites across the state that absolutely need to be cleaned up.

Heat pumps will certainly lower the cost of heating your home. If voters had been given the chance to approve this bond in November, heat pumps could have been available to homeowners with low-interest loans.

The third bond invested $20m over two years for the very popular Land for Maine’s Future program, which guarantees public access to open lands for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation and preserves working waterfronts and family farms.

Nearly all of these programs had significant matching funds available. And historically low interest rates put Maine in a very strong position right now – not next year, but right now – to finance these critical capital projects at very low costs.

If we could have gotten these bonds out to bid as early as January or February, we might have been able to get interest rates as low as two percent or below.

I entered Monday’s legislative special session with a good sense of hope. I hoped that legislators, regardless of party, would see the value of letting Maine people decide the fate of these bonds. And I certainly hoped that they would do so at a time when interest rates are so low.

Instead, a lot of people in the Legislature – Republicans in the House and Senate – just said no, with no real reason given.

No to expanding broadband for our rural areas.

No to heat pumps.

No to conserving working waterfronts, family farms, and lands for hunting.

No to repairing our critical National Guard facilities.

No to providing equipment to career and technical education centers to train more people in the trades.

You know, in Maine, people expect and deserve better than that.

While the Legislature did pass our transportation bond so we can fix some of our aging roads and bridges, Maine people won’t have a chance this November to vote for broadband, for land and waterfront conservation, or for the equipment to help young people gain work in the trades.

Compromise is not always easy. This Special Session reminds us that sometimes it’s not inevitable, no matter the merits.

While I am disappointed, I will continue to fight for these priorities because they are what Maine people want and what our economy needs to grow.

Thank you.

Janet Mills

Governor

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