Friday, July 19, 2019

Letter to the Editor

An Op-Ed by Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond

Funding transportation in Maine

This year, the Legislature unanimously passed a two-year Transportation Budget, which is separate from the General Fund Budget. This is the budget dedicated to repairing Maine’s roads and bridges and supporting transportation infrastructure like our railroads and ferries. There is nothing we use more than the transportation systems that connect us all, which is why transportation gets a budget of its own.

Not only did all legislators agree on the Transportation Budget this year, we also agreed that it needed to be increased. State funding in this Transportation Budget will be about $679 million, up from $655 million in the previous cycle. Most of the revenue that supports the Transportation Budget comes from fuel taxes (about 70%), but funding also comes from vehicle license fees, title fees and other fees and permits.

Even with this budget increase, more funds are needed to invest properly in our transportation needs. On our last day of session, a bond package with more funding for transportation was presented to the Legislature. That package received bi-partisan support and a majority of our legislators’ votes, but bonds need a two-thirds vote to make it to a referendum. Unfortunately, we didn’t reach that two-thirds threshold, and the bond package failed. The good news is, while we didn’t reach agreement before adjournment, there is a significant chance we will hold a special session to enact a bond package in time for a public vote this fall, and I am hopeful a compromise can be reached.

To be clear, bonding to repair our roads is not a sustainable, long-term solution. I believe we have to think hard and find new ways to fund critical infrastructure needs. But in the short term, we need immediate help for the projects that have been neglected since the great recession and revenue cuts. We simply cannot live with pot-hole ridden streets, broken stop lights and unsupported bridges.
Here in our district, I promise to keep focusing on the improvements we need now. I’ll continue advocating for road safety, better public transportation and transportation for older residents. This fall I will be moderating a forum sponsored by Age-Friendly Raymond to gain input from the community about what they see as the most pressing transportation needs in the district, and I hope to see many of you there.

A strong and safe transportation network in Maine is absolutely critical to the economy of Maine and the wellbeing of our people. We cannot wait to fund improvements or do the work, and I’m proud that we’re taking steps in the Legislature to take care of those projects here and around the state.

Fay is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature and represents parts of Casco, Poland and Raymond. She serves on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

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