Also in the session’s final hours, bypassing the usual, constitutional process requiring voter authorization, lawmakers bipartisanly bowed to the highway lobby and approved $210 million in bonds to finance bridge and road construction.
The $160-million bridge bill created a new tax to pay for the bonds — a $10 increase in vehicle registration, vanity plates, and title fees. The $50-million road-repair bill didn’t even have a public hearing, despite the fact that the money to pay for the bonds will come from the General Fund, which means a subtraction from cash available for social services, schools, and other needs.
These two huge new obligations of the state were so under the radar that almost no mention in the news media took place even after they passed.
The governor’s office took issue with the gist of the accompanying story, calling the state’s revenue numbers “an open book” because they are given to legislators and posted online at maine.gov/osc/pdf/financialreporting/revenuereports.
The distribution of the surplus was “made in the open,” Baldacci aide David Farmer also said. Like some legislators, he claimed the surplus would pay old hospital debt.
He also saw a surplus of $56 million as insubstantial, representing less than two percent of the 2008 state budget.
: News Features
, U.S. Government, Hannah Pingree, David Farmer, More