Governor Sends Mixed Message on Maine's Future Bond
Governor Paul LePage initially wanted to veto the $5 million bond for the Land for Maine’s Future, but Carlisle McLean, LePage’s policy staffer for environmental issues, and David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, helped convince him to allow the people of Maine to vote on the proposal. Even if the bond (along with three others LePage decided not to veto) is upheld by the voters, however, the governor has said he doesn't plan on spending the money until the state has made a significant dent in its debt.
Trahan played a huge role in getting the LMF bond through the legislative process where it required a two-thirds vote of support in both the Senate and the House. The bond barely made that threshold in the House where more than 40 Republicans voted against it.
A last-minute letter distributed to House members by Trahan is credited with convincing more Republicans to vote for the measure. In the letter, Trahan disclosed that he had been denied an opportunity to speak to the House Republican caucus on the issue, a nearly unprecedented snub that was issued by House Republican Assistant Leader Andre Cushing.
In the letter to legislators, Trahan made the same arguments he presented last week to the Governor. Trahan and Tom Abello, lobbyist for The Nature Conservancy, collaborated on LMF bond language that increased the focus of the LMF program on obtaining deer wintering habitat. That language also directs the Departments of Conservation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to be aggressive in seeking LMF projects that include “priority” deer wintering area.
The purchase, protection, and enhancement of deeryards is a critical component of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Game Plan for Deer – a plan that Governor LePage enthusiastically endorsed and announced at an exciting press conference less than a year ago.
I remember so clearly explaining to him the importance of the purchase and protection of deer wintering area during his 2010 campaign, when I served as the Sportsman’s Alliance’s Executive Director. He showed a genuine interest in and enthusiasm for this issue, and he’s apparently retained that.
I give the Governor credit for maintaining this interest and for not vetoing the LMF bond. In addition to the LMF bond, the Governor allowed three other bonds to proceed to the ballot without his signature, and he vetoed a research and development bond proposal.
The LePage Administration also supported, earlier this month, an exciting new conservation project that has been presented to the federal Forest Legacy Program for funding. That project includes eight remote wild brook trout ponds, 250 feet on both sides of a stream that is the primary spawning grounds for the region’s wild trout population, and 3,000 acres of critically important whitetail deer wintering yards. Maine would acquire fee ownership interest in all of this property, a total of 8,153 acres.
While most of the project’s cost would come from the federal program, a $500,000 to $1 million match from the Land for Maine’s Future Program will be needed in fiscal year 2014. And the LMF program will be out of funds later this year, leaving this exciting new project in jeopardy unless the program receives new bond money.
Unfortunately, although the Governor allowed the LMF bond to proceed to a referendum vote of the people in November, he threw down an unprecedented roadblock that would prevent the LMF program from receiving the funds even if the people vote for the bond.
“Even with the voters’ authorization to borrow this money, my administration will not spend it until we’ve lowered our debt significantly. That could be several years,” LePage told Portland Press Herald reporter John Richardson.
It’s entirely within the Governor’s purview to state, as he did, that he, “cannot personally support any of these bonds and will not vote for them in November,” it’s an outrageous abuse of his authority to inform voters that their decision means nothing to him, and he will in fact ignore their decision on the LMF bond.
If he does refuse to allow a new LMF bond to be sold, after the people authorize it, the Governor could stop, among other important conservation projects, the one his own Administration just stepped up to support: No 3,000 acres of deeryards. No prime brook trout spawning habitat. No remote wild brook trout ponds.
We can only hope that after the LMF bond wins the support of the people, the double-team of McLean and Trahan can convince the Governor to let that bond proceed. You can give that possibility a real boost by helping the LMF bond win a huge vote of support in November.
[Due to a server malfunction, any comments posted in response to this article were lost. Down East apologizes for the inconvenience.]