After weeks of stalling, Gov. Paul LePage has finally authorized the sale of $117 million of voter-approved bonds meant to pay for a variety of projects, including $80 million for highway projects currently underway.

LePage previously had stalled the sale of bonds in a dispute with the Legislature over state borrowing and a package of new spending bills. But on Thursday, LePage Press Secretary Julie Rabinowitz confirmed that the governor signed documents to authorize the bond sales.

“I can confirm that the governor did sign them today,” Rabinowitz said.

LePage spokesman Peter Steele said Monday that the governor was concerned about “11th-hour legislative spending” and was asking State Treasurer Terry Hayes for additional time to consider signing off on the $117 million borrowing package.

LePage later said the bonds were being held up because he didn’t have all the information he needed from Hayes. But Hayes produced documents showing that LePage had been kept up to date until his final signature was needed to authorize the bond sales.

The governor’s tactic quickly drew criticism from House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who said LePage’s action was putting thousands of jobs at risk because the bonds are needed to pay for infrastructure improvements. She urged LePage to reverse course.

Matt Marks, CEO of the trade group Associated General Contractors of Maine, said in late June that the Maine Department of Transportation had enough cash on hand to pay contractors working on about 350 highway or bridge projects underway statewide for about five more weeks. He said if LePage did not authorize the sale of new bonds within that period, funding would run short and payments to contractors would be delayed.

The DOT’s 2018 work plan includes $7.7 million for public transportation improvements in Portland, $10 million for a new Casco Bay ferry and more than $6 million for road repair and paving throughout Greater Portland, including along Washington, Stevens and Cumberland avenues, Routes 114 and Interstate 295.

Beyond highway projects, other borrowing measures already approved by Maine voters include: $8 million for port, harbor and marine transportation upgrades and $25 million for commercialization, research and development for emerging industries.

 

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