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Politics

Maine Congressional Leaders Have Mixed Views On Infrastructure Bill

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Maine Public

Congressional leaders of both parties and President Donald Trump are calling for a fourth package to help restart the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic — this one aimed at infrastructure. But Maine’s delegation differs on priorities and timing.

“Anyone who travels around the state as much as I do knows that there is still a lot of work to be done on our roads, our bridges in particular,” says U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican. “Although we have made a lot of progress on our seaports, more needs to be done three as well also our airports.”

Collins says every state, including Maine, has a backlog of transportation projects, ranging from roads and bridges to ports and airports, and she says tackling those with a big federal investment will put a lot of people back to work.

Independent Sen. Angus King agrees with that need, but adds that the millions of people working from home, as well as the millions of students learning online, demonstrates a need to invest in broadband internet.

“We have thousands of people working from home, but you can’t work from home if you don’t have decent broadband,” says King. “We’ve got thousands of kids out of school who want to keep up with their schooling, but it is very hard for them to stay engaged with their school and teachers without a broadband connection.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing the state’s 1st District, says infrastructure investments must be aimed at the future and, too often, money is spent on old technology and not invested in the future.

“I think we will be saying what’s the right way to do it in the future so we are not rebuilding things in a way that are antiquated by the time it is done,” Pingree says.

And Democratic 2nd District Rep. Jared Golden says it is too early to discuss an infrastructure package, although he agrees one will be needed.

“What good would doing a big infrastructure bill be right now? We can’t even deploy our workforce,” Golden says. “That’s not going to stimulate the economy. But we should be talking about that once we get the all clear on this virus.”

Golden says Congress needs to help laid-off workers pay their bills and invest in the nation’s health care system to handle this pandemic — and whatever the next health crisis may be.

Originally posted 6:18 a.m. April 12, 2020