There are a handful of multi-million dollar political campaigns going on in Maine this year.
And most voters have heard of them all – in spades.
Former independent Gov. Angus King is running for the United States Senate against Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Dill and Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is running for re-election against Republican Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, and Democratic U. S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is running for re-election against Republican state Sen. Jon Courtney.
In addition, there are five ballot questions before voters in less than two weeks.
Question 1 asks voters to allow same-sex couples to receive a marriage license, while protecting religious freedom. I’m the communications director on the campaign and believe that most Mainers are aware of the issue, even if they don’t all agree.
The ballot doesn’t end with Question 1, however. There are four more statewide questions that also deserve voters’ attention and support.
While the level of information drops off sharply, voters still have important decisions to make on four bond questions.
For most folks, bonds are not nearly as emotional as questions about marriage or the votes they cast for candidates.
Instead, Mainers generally support public investments in higher education, roads and bridges, land conservation and clean water.
The four bonds proposed this year are modest in size, affordable and have the potential to pay huge dividends to the state.
There’s little in the way of an active campaign – either for or against – any of the bonds, but they are nevertheless important and represent critical public policy decisions that the Maine Constitution says are best made by voters.
For bonds to make it to the ballot, they must first be approved by two-thirds of both the Maine House of Representatives and the State Senate. The supermajority requirement ensures that bonds earn the support of Democrats and Republicans, making them a significant bipartisan achievement.
Question 2 asks voters to approve $11.3 million for capital improvements for the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy.
Maine takes its institutions of higher education for granted. The funding would build new biosafety laboratory space and purchase machine tool technology and other job-training equipment. It’s a smart investment.
Question 3 asks voters to approve $5 million for land conservation to preserve water access, wildlife and fish habitat, access to hunting and fishing, protect deer wintering areas and preserve working farmland and waterfronts.
The funding would go to the Land for Maine’s Future program, one of the most successful and popular programs in the state.
Among it’s many achievements, the Land for Maine’s Future program attracts matching investments of $3 for every $1 in bond support. It has protected 250,000 acres of working forestland, more than 1,000 miles of water access, 30 farms and 24 commercial waterfront projects.
Land for Maine’s Future is good for the economy and helps to preserve the special places that make our state unique.
Everyone who’s gone just a little way off the Interstate this summer knows how badly we need Question 4 to pass. The question would provide $51.5 million for highways, bridges, local roads, airports, port facilities and the LifeFlight Foundation.
In addition, the investment would make the state eligible for at least $105.6 million in federal and other matching funds.
Question 4 is an investment in the economic heart of our state. It will put people to work, help businesses and industries move their products to market, save lives and decrease wear and tear on all of our cars and trucks.
Question 5 asks voters to approve $7.9 million for drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities. If approved, the bond will make the state eligible for $39.6 million in federal grants.
Every time we go to the kitchen faucet for a glass of water or to brush our teeth, we should be thankful for the quality of our water. Clean water and proper wastewater treatment are key elements of good health, good business and a good life.
The 8-to-1 match makes this bond a great investment that pays for itself with every fish that’s caught, summer swim that’s taken or cool glass of water that gets drunk. It protects public health, creates jobs and improves our environment.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce supports all of the bond questions, recognizing that they will spur economic growth and benefit businesses both large and small.
In past years, making investments in Maine’s infrastructure wasn’t controversial. In recent years, it’s become a new partisan battleground.
This year, we should put partisanship aside and support bonds that will support us for years to come.