Forecaster Forum: Misinformation swirls around legislation on Land for Maine's Future bonds

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During my time serving in the Maine Legislature nothing has surprised me more than how quickly blatant misinformation can fester into fact. This has never been more evident than the reporting on LD 1378 and the situation with the Land For Maine’s Future bonds.

The situation came to a head when I was bombarded with a mountain of misinformation last week at a Town Council meeting in Cumberland, where Town Manager Bill Shane called me a “liar.” It’s important to note that most of the town councilors at the meeting acted in a professional and respectful fashion, but Shane and his few allies were determined to advance their false narrative from the very beginning.

Just so there is no confusion, let me say I fully support the Land For Maine’s Future program, specifically the Knight’s Pond/Blueberry Hill and Wormell Farm projects, as they are of particular importance to my constituents. However, Augusta Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill, LD 1378, was not the vehicle to get these projects funded as expeditiously as possible.

Whether we like it or not, Gov. Paul LePage has made himself part of the LMF process and trying to circumvent him through LD 1378, as opposed to working with him, will not lead us to the outcome that I and the residents of Cumberland want to see: the timely closing on our two projects.

That being said, the reality of this situation is much messier than many realize.

Town councilors seem to be under the impression that had I voted to override the governor’s veto LMF dollars would immediately begin flowing from Augusta. That is simply not true. The reality is the state goes to the bond market once a year, typically in the spring, when interest rates are traditionally at their lowest.

The state has already gone to the bond market this year and won’t do so again until next year, meaning whether LD 1378 became law this session or not it would not have impacted the LMF bonds one iota.

This legislation would also have not only cut the current governor out of the bonding process, but all future governors, forever changing the way we issue bonds in Maine. I gave this matter a lot of thought and at the end of the day I felt it was irresponsible to potentially put Maine’s financial future at risk by permanently leaving the bonding process solely in the hands of the state treasurer, who is not an elected official. I base my votes on what I feel is in the best interest of my constituents and the people of Maine.

On the same day we voted on the veto of LD 1378, Gov. LePage extended an olive branch to legislators by presenting a bill that would have extended the life of the LMF bonds to allow us more time to iron out this issue and get these projects off the ground. Unfortunately, Democrats put an unnecessary delay on these projects by tacking on an 11th-hour amendment that would have allowed the LMF board of directors to dictate to the governor how taxpayer money was to be allocated.

Among those who supported this unconstitutional amendment was Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth.

I did not take my vote on this matter lightly. I met with the governor multiple times to discuss this bill and to determine the quickest way to fund Cumberland’s two LMF projects. It became clear to me that the best path forward involved working with the governor, not playing games like the Democrats in the Legislature, who seem more interested in scoring political points than making these LMF projects a reality.

Unlike Sen. Breen and the Democrats, I will fight to make the Knight’s Pond, Blueberry Hill and Wormell Farm projects a reality.

I have requested another public meeting with Cumberland town officials and I know the governor has said he would very much like to attend this meeting as well, to help set the record straight. My hope is that Cumberland’s town manager can keep his insults to himself and try to act in a professional manner, so we can resolve this situation as quickly as possible.

Republican state Rep. Mike Timmons represents House District 45, which includes Cumberland and part of Gray.

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State Rep. Michael Timmons, R-Cumberland.