LePage announces highway bond, insists on hospital payment

6:33 PM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Governor Paul LePage today proposed borrowing $100 million to rebuild some of Maine's roads. The Governor announced his Transportation Bond plan this morning, with a crowd of construction workers, contractors and Maine DOT staff looking on.

The bond would need to be passed by Maine voters in November, so none of the projects paid for by the package would be able to happen until 2014 at the earliest.

It was the first time the financially tight-fisted Governor has proposed a general obligation bond of any kind. In fact, the Governor is currently holding of on signing a $105 million package of bonds already passed by the voters, saying he will release those bonds for sale only if the Legislature passes his plan to pay off the state's $484 million debt to Maine hospitals.Gov. LePage spoke about the hospital issue at length during today's press conference, saying he was "holding them hostage" to force the Legislature to act on the hospital bill.

Democratic legislators say they have made the hospital issue a priority, but also say they won't rush it through the legislative process just to satisfy the Governor. Democrats have been saying for weeks that the Governor should sign off on the bonds now, so the projects they would pay for can move forward. They reiterated that demand today.

The Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a work session on the hospital bill on Friday, but there's no word if they're likely to make any final decisions. Gov. LePage wants to borrow the money to pay the state's $185 million share of the hospital debt, and pay it back with proceeds from a new wholesale liquor contract. Democrats want to require the winning bidder of the liquor contract to pay the hospital money as an upfront payment. In both cases, the federal government's Medicaid program would pay the balance of the debt.

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