AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The Mayors of Maine's twelve largest cities say they can help the state create more jobs - but say the state needs to help them do it.
The mayors met with reporters in Augusta to outline an $85 million bond issue, sponsored on their behalf by Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, himself a former mayor.
The bond package would provide money for downtown improvements, research and development projects around the state, new job training programs through the Community Colleges, improvements to roads, rail lines and walking trails and upgrades to water and sewer systems.
Augusta mayor Bill Stokes says his city is an example of how stronger downtowns can help put people to work. Stokes says Augusta's downtown has seen remarkable growth in the past three years, as a result of private investment with encouragement from the city. He says that 33 new businesses have opened in the downtown area. Stokes and the other mayors suggested stronger downtowns throughout Maine can help create economic growth around all those communities, and say the bond issue would help to make that happen.
However, the mayors also criticized a budget proposal by Gov. Paul LePage that would eli8minate municipal revenue sharing for the next two years. Mayors say it would take more than $98 million out of local budgets, and cause a major tax shift onto the property tax.
Senator Katz, who is a Republican, also opposes the revenue sharing cut, as do most democrats in the Legislature. But Katz says if revenue sharing is to be restored they will need to make cuts somewhere else - or find ways to increase taxes, which many of his fellow Republicans are likely to oppose. As for the bond proposal, Katz says the Legislature will have to wait until after the budget is passed to know how much money, if any, will be available to pay for new borrowing.