When voters cast their ballots July 14 in the voting booth, or by absentee ballot or in person, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, two statewide referendum questions will be considered.
Both statewide referendum questions concerning funding and are proposed bond issues. July 14 is the state’s primary Election Day with state and national party candidates vying for endorsement. The July 14 elections will also serve as town meeting polls for some towns choosing conduct meetings this year via secret ballot. And, July 14 will also serve for some municipalities choosing to hold their select board and school board elections that day, as well.
Question 1 asks: “Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue to invest in high-speed internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas, to be used to match up to $30,000,000 in federal, private, local or other funds?”
Question 2 asks: “Do you favor a $105,000,000 bond issue for improvement of highways and bridges statewide and for multimodal facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation and active transportation projects, to be used to match an estimated $275,000,000 in federal and other funds?”
The State of Maine borrows money by issuing bonds. General Obligation bonds are backed, as noted in a statement from Maine’s treasurer, by the full faith and credit of the State and must be submitted statewide to the voters for approval.
Once approved, the Treasurer issues bonds as needed to fund the approved bond projects and uses a rapid 10-year repayment of principal strategy to retire the debt.
If the bond proposals on the ballot in July 2020 are approved by the voters, general obligation debt service as a percentage of the State’s General Fund, Highway Fund and Revenue Sharing appropriations is expected to be 2.81% in FY21 and 2.92% in FY22.
The following is a summary of general obligation bond debt of the State of Maine as of April 30:
Bonds Outstanding (Issued and Maturing through 2029):
Unissued bonds authorized by voters: $205,930,000
Unissued bonds authorized by the constitution: $99,000,000
Total authorized but unissued bonds: $304,930,000
The total amount that must be paid in the present fiscal year for bonded debt already outstanding (for FY20): $97,969,678.
If the aforementioned bonds are approved by voters and issued for the full statutory period authorized, an estimate of the total interest and principal that may reasonably be expected to be paid is $153,000,000, representing $120,000,000 in principal and $33,000,000 in interest.
This question pertains to the proposed $15 million bond.
If approved, the bond would provide $15 million in funds to the ConnectME Authority for investments in high-speed internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.
This question pertains to the proposed $105 million bond, which would be split into two uses.
$90 million of the bond, if approved, would be used to provide the Maine Department of Transportation funds to improve highways and bridges statewide, including the Madawaska International Bridge replacement project and associated utility relocation costs, and for the department's municipal partnership initiative and associated activities.
$15 million of the bond, if approved, would be used to provide funds for multimodal facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports, harbors, marine transportation and active transportation projects and associated activities.