The price you pay

 Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  October 30, 2013

I recently received a shocking secret recording of statements made by Republican Governor Paul LePage.

No, not the one uncovered by blogger Mike Tipping in which LePage falsely claims there’s a $47 million budget surplus, that nearly half of able-bodied Mainers are unproductive slugs and that he has a big lead in the polls in his bid for a second term. There’s nothing shocking about the governor saying stuff that’s completely false. He does it all the time.

What makes my recording different is that it contains statements by LePage that are accurate.

“It is our duty as public servants to ensure each taxpayer dollar is spent appropriately to earn the highest return at the lowest cost. That is especially true when we are spending borrowed money — money that has to be paid back by future taxpayers, with interest,” LePage said. “Until our debts and more importantly, our spending are back under control, adding more of a burden would be fiscally irresponsible.”

I can’t reveal the source of this secret statement — otherwise, it wouldn’t be secret — but I can say it bears a close resemblance to a June 2012 letter from the governor explaining why he was refusing to authorize the sale of bonds approved by voters in 2010.
“I cannot personally support any of these bonds and will not vote for them at the polls in November,” LePage said in another surreptitiously recorded remark that closely parallels a statement he sent to the Legislature in May 2012. “Even with the voters’ authorization to borrow this money, my administration will not spend it until we’ve lowered our debt significantly. That could be several years.”

Since making those remarks, the governor has agreed to issue most approved bonds, but only after the state paid off its $186 million debt to Maine’s hospitals — using money it borrowed against future revenue it will receive from a new wholesale liquor contract it hasn’t yet negotiated. So, Maine went from owing the hospitals a load of cash to owing the same amount (plus interest) to a bunch of bondholders, which is either a form of debt reduction worthy of a Nobel Prize in economics or an example of political bull pucky.

All of which brings us to the November 5 ballot, when voters will be asked to approve five bond issues that will produce $150 million (plus $33 million in interest) in new debt. That will add to our current bonded debt of more than $400 million in principal and interest. That doesn’t count bonds that have been authorized but not yet issued, which amount to over $200 million.

Right now, our borrowing is costing us nearly $100 million a year. If all the bonds on the November ballot are approved and the pending bonds are sold, that figure will increase by about $80 million each year. That money will not be covered by liquor sales, because we’ve already spent the next decade’s worth of those profits. So, I guess it’ll have to come out of your taxes.

Here’s what you’ll be asked to approve.

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