When was the last time you dodged a pothole or experienced a poor internet connection? My guess is within the last few days. Just recently, I talked with a constituent who cannot practice telehealth from her home in Ellsworth because of a poor connection. The reason for her call? Worrying about internet access for people she is trying to help who are homebound. Meanwhile, on the road front, we have a new coat of pavement on Oak Street and the Washington Junction Road, but these roads will need to be rebuilt soon enough along with others that are important regional connectors.
Both transportation and internet infrastructure are critical to keep our Maine economy strong and connected. We can do better, and you can help by voting in the July referendum election.
Long-term funding sources to improve our roads and expand broadband internet need to be identified. My legislative committee — Energy, Utilities and Technology — has voted to use a portion of internet sales tax revenue to fund broadband build-out, but the bill has yet to be considered as part of the larger state budget. We cannot wait for perfect solutions in order to move forward with good solutions. That is why the Legislature has sent two bond questions to voters for your consideration.
Question 1 is a $15-million bond to expand high-speed internet that will be matched by $30 million in private, federal and local support — tripling the impact of this smart investment and putting at least $45 million to work connecting Mainers, especially in rural areas. Question 2 is a $105-million transportation bond with a significant match of $275 million in federal and other funds. We can keep and create a lot of good jobs while rebuilding roads and bridges with $380 million.
These are 10-year bonds and will be paid off before the resulting infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. Interest rates are low. With an economic crisis caused by the global pandemic looming, this will be a solid investment in jobs and our economy. Would I prefer not to borrow money and pay interest? Yes. Is this an important tool for economic growth and are there favorable borrowing conditions? Resoundingly yes. I hope you agree to invest in Maine’s future with yes votes on Questions 1 and 2.
Regardless of your view, please cast a ballot in the July 14 primary. You do not need to be enrolled in a political party to vote on bond questions. In-person voting will look a bit different as polling places adjust to accommodate public health recommendations so that everyone can feel safe participating. If you plan to vote in person, you are encouraged to wear a face covering and allot more time than usual to account for enhanced cleaning procedures between voters.
Many Mainers are choosing to vote absentee, which is easy to do in our state. You can request a ballot now and have until 8 p.m. on July 14 to return it to your municipal office. You can call for a ballot (Ellsworth: 669-6604, Trenton: 667-7207, or your own town office) or request one online: www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl. More information about voting is available at www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/.
Absentee voting is a quick and easy process that protects you from possible exposure and limits the number of people our election clerks will have to interact with on July 14.
Voting matters, and it is important that everyone weighs in on the decisions that will affect all Mainers. Not registered? It’s never too late to start participating; contact your municipal office for more info. As always, if you have any questions on this or other topics or concerns I can help you with, please reach out. I am available at 358-8333 or [email protected]
Rep. Nicole Grohoski is serving her first term in the Maine House of Representatives, where she represents Ellsworth and Trenton. A member of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, she has been a vocal advocate for expanding affordable internet access to all Mainers.