Question 1: Do you want to bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval? 


It would require voter approval for some public offices, as well as publicly owned electricity providers, before they take on more than $1 billion in debt.

If it passes, the legislation affiliated with this ballot measure will require the Office of the Maine State Treasurer to prepare a statement when certain government bodies seek more than $1 billion in debt and to present that statement to voters regarding the estimated costs of the increased debt and any other issues the treasurer considers relevant.

It exempts debt issued by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, the Finance Authority of Maine, the Maine Health and Higher Education Facilities Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Maine Turnpike Authority, municipalities and counties and the Maine Municipal Bond Bank. Debt for certain education-related programs also is exempted.



The measure was initiated by Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power, as a backstop in case Question 3 passes. The investor-owned utility is opposed to Question 3, which, if it passes, will create a publicly owned utility called Pine Tree Power that would take over CMP. The cost to buy CMP and the other investor-owned utility in Maine, Versant Power, is estimated to fall between $6 billion and $13 billion. Such a purchase would require the state to take on considerable debt.


Backers of the ballot question say no one knows how much it would cost to acquire the two investor-owned utilities. They argue taxpayers should know the amount first and get a chance to vote on the debt needed to acquire the two utilities.

No state law requires a publicly owned transmission and distribution utility, including the proposed Pine Tree Power, to receive voter approval before borrowing money that must be repaid by ratepayers. Supporters of Question 1 say the proposed public utility does not provide for voter oversight of borrowing by this new government-controlled entity. They crafted Question 1 to provide that oversight and to lobby for it, organizing a campaign called No Blank Checks.


Al Cleveland,  campaign manager for Our Power, the organization working to establish Pine Tree Power, said the group is not concerned about Question 1 because “we don’t believe it will impact Mainers’ decision to vote out CMP and Versant.” Cleveland cited a provision of Question 3 saying that if voters approve Pine Tree Power, its debt or liability is not subject to additional voter approval.

However, opponents to Pine Tree Power counter by pointing out that Question 1, if approved by voters, will take effect 90 days after the results are announced – in March or April – giving it enough time to affect Pine Tree Power if it’s established by the voters on Nov. 7.

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