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Mills' two-year budget allocates $400 million for transportation — triggering $1 billion from feds

Pat Wellenbach
Associated Press
A car navigates around construction on a roadway that connects Topsham to Brunswick, Maine on Thursday, June 16, 2011.

Transportation funding would receive a big influx in funding under the two-year budget proposed by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, as well as a new revenue stream.

The centerpiece of the governor's transportation proposal is a $400 million allocation to the Maine Department of Transportation, an initiative designed to trigger $1 billion in federal matching funds made available in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law enacted by the previous Congress.

While DOT has already received funding from that law, inflation and higher costs for materials has limited progress of its infrastructure work plan and the agency was forced to delay $28 million worth of projects last year.

Mills told reporters during her budget briefing that dedicating money in the state's new two-year spending plan would unlock additional resources and provide a historic investment in state infrastructure.

"While we've made progress on fixing our transportation system, anyone can look around and see that there's a lot of work to be done," she said. "And that's why I want to go after every federal dollar that we can."

A separate budget initiative would pay off a bond to reimburse Maine's hospitals early and redirect its current revenue source — a portion of state liquor sales — to the state Highway Fund.

Taken together, the two initiatives mark a change from the state's previous reliance on voter-approved bonds to fund transportation infrastructure amid a steady decline in its traditional revenue source, gas tax collections.

The governor's proposal is now in the hands of the Maine Legislature, which can adopt it or change it.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.