2013-09-13 / People

Guest Column

Bond package invests in future
By Sen. Rebecca Millett

Sen. Rebecca Millett Sen. Rebecca Millett I recently returned to Augusta for a special legislative session to vote on a robust bond package providing nearly $150 million in critical investments to Maine’s transportation infrastructure, higher education institutions and armories. Democrats have long advocated that bonding is an important tool for economic growth and we worked hard to develop a bond package that would receive bipartisan support. I believe that the final product is a win for Maine people.

The bond package includes $100 million for improvements to Maine’s infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, rail and ports. We can all agree that a strong transportation system is critical for a growing economy. Maine’s infrastructure network, however, is in serious need of repair. According to the American Society for Civil Engineers, Maine’s infrastructure isgradedasaCminus,duetothepoorconditionofour roads and bridges, as well as the lack of investment in our infrastructure. Not only is this unsafe, but it is costly as well. Poorly maintained roads and bridges cost Maine motorists $246 million every year in additional vehicle repairs and operating costs, which equals $299 per person. Investing in infrastructure will bolster our economy and save Mainers money.

As Senate chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, I am very encouraged by the $35.5 million for higher education. I believe this is a significant investment in Maine’s people that will help students and workers obtain the skills we need to compete in today’s economy.

The proposed bond package allows our University of Maine System, Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy to upgrade existing facilities. A good job starts with a good education, which in turn requires the resources – like state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories – needed to succeed. These upgraded facilities will house new science and nursing labs and other classrooms for students who concentrate in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Maine has the opportunity to be a leader in these cutting-edge fields and I look forward to all the great things our young scientists, engineers and other STEM graduates will accomplish.

Our National Guard armories must also be well-maintained and up-to-date to meet the needs of our servicemen and women as they prepare to serve our country. The bond package provides $14 million for National Guard Readiness Centers and funding for the additional acquisition of training land. Currently, the National Guard does not have enough training land to meet U.S. Department of Defense standards and necessitates training in other states. We must do more.

While the package does not address all of Maine’s needs, it does provide the kind of strategic investment we need to move Maine forward. Having passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature, the bond package will now be placed on the November ballot for voter approval. It is my hope that voters can support this package and help strengthen our economy.

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