2 ‘Nos’ and a ‘Yes’
The MBTA urges you to help get out the vote on November 3
by Thomas H. Martin, Jr., MBTA President
There are seven questions on the November 3 ballot, and I wanted to bring your attention to three that are of great importance to the transportation industry. All three questions – two if they are defeated and one if it is passed – will give our industry a big boost at a time when we need it most. So, we need your help getting the vote out.
Below is a quick summary of the issues and how they stand to affect our businesses and quality of life. You can read more about them in this issue of Maine Trails. Also, Maria Fuentes and the MBTA staff will be providing members with more information, including voter fact sheets and e-mail alerts that I hope you will share with family, friends and co-workers. Please watch your e-mail, fax and mbtaonline.org for more information.
YES on Question 6, the transportation bond
This November, Maine will be voting on a $71.25 million transportation bond referendum that will be the backbone of MaineDOT’s biennial budget. From my perspective as a former public works director and current business owner, I know passage of this bond is of paramount importance to our communities and to our state.
This includes funding for transportation improvements that will make life better for all of us. The bond will leverage $148 million additional in federal, local and other funding matches – making the total value to our state more than $219 million in investments to highways and bridges, airports, public transit facilities and ferry and port facilities.
Second, we cannot afford to neglect our transportation infrastructure any more. During the past several months, we have been hit hard by budget cuts at the state – that includes the elimination of 75 percent of the Maintenance Surface Treatment program for this biennium. If this bond measure does not pass, it will decimate much of what remains of MaineDOT’s two-year work plan. And that would have disastrous effects in terms of continuing the downward spiral of the state’s transportation capital program, impacting the safety of our transportation network, as well as our businesses.
I hope you will join me and the MBTA board in supporting this bond. You can read more specifics about the bond referendum in “The $71.25 million transportation bond”, page 22 of this magazine.
NO on Question 2, the excise tax referendum
While the excise tax – Question 2 – does not go exclusively to roads, for most towns it is a big part of the budget they devote to the maintenance of municipal road systems. The 55 percent cut called for in the initiative would trigger an annual revenue loss estimated at $84 million. Most Maine towns and cities already are struggling to keep up with road maintenance – and if this question passes, there are certain to be more potholes, rougher roads and less plowing.
Reducing the excise tax will potentially make our roads less safe, and I hope you will join me in voting NO on Question 2.
You can read Doug Rooks’ article on both the excise tax and Tabor II initiatives and their potential effect on Maine’s transportation network in this issue’s cover story “Troubling questions” on page 14.
NO on Question 4, TABOR II referendum
The most frustrating aspect of Question 4 on the ballot is that it ignores Maine’s referendum process. We voted as a state on this issue three years ago – and as a state, we soundly opposed it. Now, countless hours and millions more dollars are being wasted on this issue.
The fact is this “taxpayers’ bill of rights” imposes unrealistic limits to state and local government spending and is no better an idea now than it was three years ago. If it is passed, it could bring state government to a grinding standstill by tying the hands of our elected officials and putting costly requirements on state and local governments to put revenue increases out for public vote. We don’t need any more red tape in our transportation policy. Colorado tried TABOR, and then rescinded most of it because their infrastructure, along with education, deterioriated.
In closing, I would like to let you know that the MBTA board of directors has decided to cancel the MBTA Transportation Achievement Awards for 2009, a casualty of the struggling economy that has hit MBTA members particularly hard.
With so many of our members dealing with layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, we couldn’t in good conscience ask members to undertake the considerable cost of staging the awards and the gala dinner.
It has been good to see so many of you at our meetings and events this summer and fall – the Infrastructure Fund Golf Classic, the Aroostook County Meeting and the MBTA Fall Convention. We very much appreciate your support during these difficult times; we hope it reflects your belief in our advocacy work increasing public awareness of the need to invest in our transportation network. We have several more important events coming up, including the Maine Transportation Conference and our Holiday Meeting in December.
These are challenging times for our industry, but by getting together and sharing our ideas, we will emerge stronger and better able to support the MBTA’s mission of creating safer, more efficient transportation for Maine. Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you soon!
Don’t forget to vote!