Mace and Hermann look back during 73rd MBTA annual meeting
There were 13 former MBTA presidents gathered at the organization’s annual meeting May 10 in Augusta. So it was more than fitting that MBTA’s outgoing and incoming presidents both offered an historical look at transportation, funding and the economy of the state of Maine, as well as a few glimpses of what they expected ahead.
Outgoing MBTA President Randy Mace of Anderson Equipment offered a look at recent history in the state legislature, and promises of General Fund support for transportation that have gone unfulfilled.
“We had hoped that the Maine Legislature would recognize the need to send some General Fund monies into the transportation coffers, but that hasn’t happened,” said Mace. Mace was specifically speaking of Governor LePage’s proposal during the 125th Maine Legislature to allocate up to $20 million in General Fund revenues to Maine’s capital transportation needs. Mace said that General Fund support for roads and bridges “would only seem fair,” noting that sales taxes generated by the sale of transportation related items account for approximately 20 percent of all Maine sales tax revenues.
Mace also talked about a disconcerting trend in state transportation funding over the past four decades – what he called “a monumental shift in budgeting priorities” – that has only worsened in recent years. In 1976, the state spent 26 percent of its revenues on maintaining its transportation network, while today it spends less than 10 percent on transportation.
“The funding mechanism that we rely on to provide a safe and efficient transportation system to move our economy forward – and more importantly to move our families through their lives – is on life support and fading fast,” said Mace.
‘Primary function of government’
For his part, incoming MBTA President Doug Hermann, of Wyman & Simpson, Inc., looked at how, in history, transportation had helped build Maine’s economy. “Maintaining a transportation system for commerce is a primary function of government,” said Hermann at the outset of his remarks. He then backed up this idea traversing history from the War of 1812 – which at the center was about the new nation’s ability to maintain international commerce routes – to the birth of the paper mills in the mid-1850s to the establishment of the interstate highway system in the mid-1900s.
“The world changes and so do our transportation needs. . . This leads me to the three top goals for the next 12 months: funding, funding, funding,” said Hermann. He talked about the immediate, mid- and long-term transportation funding needs.
In the short term, Hermann urged members to help get out the vote for the $51.25 million transportation bond referendum in November.
“Our citizens have figured out the importance of investing in transportation and the proof is at the ballot box,” said Hermann. He cited strong voter support for transportation investments, ranging from 58 percent to 72 percent in recent years.
In the mid-term, Hermann said he will work with the board to advocate for General Fund support for transportation.
“Our research shows us that other states, on average, use general funds to fund transportation at about 17 percent,” said Hermann. “While we were unsuccessful so far this year in garnering that support in the legislature, it has to be at the forefront of our agenda.”
He also said a priority during his time as president will be to promote sustainable solutions on the federal level: “We need to advocate that federal leaders – our senators and members of the House – find a sustainable funding mechanism for our transportation infrastructure. Maine can’t find a solution on our own – it has to be part of a national effort.”
He noted that spurring action on the state or federal level would not be easy, given policymakers’ reluctance to raise fuel taxes over the past 20 years.
“Can you imagine if we were forced to charge the same today to deliver a product in our businesses as we did 20 years ago? That is ludicrous,” said Hermann.
Thanks all around
More than 200 MBTA members, family and friends attended the 73rd annual gathering at the Augusta Civic Center. Notable among those present were MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills, who earlier in the day participated in a briefing on the two agencies’ 2012 capital programs.
Past presidents at the meeting included: Richard Martin; Don Raye; Tom Hey; Rocky Cianchette; Mark Barnes; Phil Grondin, Jr.; Steve Sawyer; Tim Folster; Scott Leach; Greg Dore; Lauren Corey; Tom Martin; and Deborah Dunlap Avasthi.
In his farewell speech, Randy Mace thanked event sponsors for their support of MBTA’s efforts to advance a safer, more efficient transportation network in Maine.
He also offered his heartfelt appreciation to his employer, Anderson Equipment, for its generous support during his time as MBTA president; to his wife, Bonnie, for being by his side during the past 12 months; and to his predecessor, Deborah Dunlap Avasthi, for being “a great role model.”
Anderson Equipment Company
The Lane Construction Corporation
Wyman & Simpson, Inc.
The Louis Berger Group
Berkley Surety Group
Hudson Asphalt Group
The Rowley Agency, Inc.
H. O. Bouchard, Inc.
F.R. Carroll. Inc.
Fay, Spofford & Thorndike LLC
GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
Milone and MacBroom, Inc.
Shaw Brothers Construction, Inc.
VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
Whited Peterbuilt of Maine
Willis of Northern New England, Inc.
@work Personnel Service, Inc.
Becker Structural Engineers, Inc.
John T. Cyr & Sons, Inc.
GEI Consultants, Inc.
R. W. Gillespie & Associates, Inc.
Gorham Sand & Gravel, Inc.
R. J. Grondin & Sons, Inc.
Haley & Aldrich
Hanover Insurance Company
Hews Company LLC
Jordan Equipment Co.
Macdonald Page & Co LLC
Maine Drilling & Blasting, Inc.
Maine Tourism Association
NITRAM Excavation & GC, Inc.
Portland International Jetport
Pratt & Sons, Inc.
E. J. Prescott, Inc.
Prock Marine Company
Skillings-Shaw & Associates, Inc.
Steven & Jay, Inc.
Thompson Rolec Enterprises, LLC
Wellman Paving, Inc.