Question 1 is a $14 million bond issue to upgrade and repair Maine Army National Guard facilities around the state and to purchase land for a machine gun training facility. It carries interest costs of $3 million, but it also makes the state eligible for another $14 million in federal funds. There’s no question these buildings are in need of work, but there is some question about whether we need 34 aging Guard facilities scattered around the state. I’d feel a lot more comfortable voting for this if somebody could explain why consolidation doesn’t make sense.
Question 2 calls for $15.5 million for improvements at the University of Maine System, which — given its declining enrollment and elimination of programs — could certainly stand improvement. But before we borrow heavily to do that (this bond will cost us $3.4 million in interest), maybe we should consider merging some of the smaller campuses and unifying the university and the Maine Community Colleges systems.
Question 3 is the biggie, $100 million for highways, bridges, ports, and a variety of other transportation projects. While there are certainly boondoggles hidden in this package, much of the work is needed, and the $154 million in additional funding it will allow Maine to grab from the feds and other sources makes it the most worthwhile item on the ballot.
Question 4 calls for $4.5 million for a new science facility at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. It would open the way to another $10 million in private investment — and nearly a million in interest costs.
Question 5 is for $15.5 million for the aforementioned community colleges. Some of the same objections I raised to Question 2 pertain to this item.
Question 6 isn’t on the ballot, but it ought to be. It should read, “Do you want to reduce the amount Maine owes each year for debt payments by refusing to spend money we don’t have in the vain hope we’ll be rolling in dough when the bill comes due?”
I’d be voting yes on that one.
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