Commentary

Southern Maine lawmakers want to build a taxpayer-funded convention center in Portland

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The Maine Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is holding a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m. in Room 228 of the State House on LD 341, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue for the Construction of a Convention Center in Portland.” The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andrew McLean of Gorham and co-sponsored by Reps. Michael Brennan and Michael Sylvester of Portland, and Teresa Pierce of Falmouth.

LD 341, one of more than 270 bills carried over from the first session, proposes to borrow $150 million to build a convention center in Portland. If approved by lawmakers, the issue would go to Maine voters to decide during a statewide election in 2020.

Using taxpayer dollars to pay for a convention center in Portland is fiscally irresponsible and a symbol of bad governance. Taxpayers from across the state, many of whom may never step foot in the proposed convention center, would be responsible for paying the $150 million principle bond amount as well as the interest. For a 10 year term, the interest accrued would likely be more than $20 million for a total investment of at least $170 million.

According to the Office of the Maine State Treasurer, taxpayers are already slated to pay more than $643 million for existing general obligation bonds between 2020 and 2029. Of this total, $533.5 million will be paid on the principal amount while $109.5 million will be paid in interest. Under LD 341, the state could add another $150 million plus interest to that total. Taxpayers deserve better. 

These funds would be better used providing real tax relief to Maine citizens, eliminating Medicaid wait lists for Maine’s most vulnerable citizens or funding our crumbling transportation infrastructure. Constructing a new convention center in Portland is not even close to the most pressing priority, particularly for state government. 

Because this bond proposal is irresponsible and unnecessary, members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee should have no trouble rejecting it this session.

About Adam Crepeau

Adam Crepeau serves as a policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at acrepeau@mainepolicy.org.

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