U.S. Markets closed

Maine lawmakers to take up bond package

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Maine lawmakers plan to consider dozens of bond proposals for state roads, bridges and schools as they work to finalize the state budget before the legislative session ends June 19.

The Appropriations Committee will hear testimony Wednesday at a hearing on hundreds of millions of dollars on roughly 30 bonds, some already existing programs and some new. But Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been weary to issue any bonds until the state pays back its current debt.

Among the bond proposals are packages to improve highways and bridges, buy classroom equipment, expand nursing programs at community colleges and put $50 million toward boosting water quality in Maine's cities and towns.

Any newly approved bonds would come on top of $105 million in bonds that lawmakers or voters have already authorized but have not yet been issued.

The Republican governor says he will issue a series of public improvement bonds after lawmakers agree on how to pay the state's $484 million debt to Maine hospitals for unpaid Medicaid services. LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Monday the state will be in better financial shape to take on additional debt once the hospital's debt is taken off the books.

But Rep. Margaret Rotundo, D-Lewiston and House chair of the Appropriations Committee, said withholding bond issues would stall job creation and construction projects, including roads and bridges, at a critical economic time for Maine.