Seventeen local candidates for the Maine Legislature have signed a pledge promising to support legislation to force Gov. Paul LePage to release a $15 million voter-approved bond to help finance the construction of affordable housing for low-income seniors across the state. The bond would be matched with $22.5 million in private and public funds to construct energy-efficient homes for elderly Mainers. Over 70 percent of Maine voters approved the bond last November, but the governor has refused to sign off on it. There are currently 9,000 seniors on waiting lists for affordable housing, according to the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, which drafted the pledge.

The list of local pledge signers includes 16 Democrats, one independent, and one Republican, including incumbent legislators Sen. David Miramant (D-Knox Cty.), Sen. Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln Cty.), Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center (D-Rockland), Rep. Erin Herbig (D-Belfast), Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle) and Rep. Mick Devin (D-Newcastle), as well as Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford (D-Monroe) and House candidates Donald Robishaw (R-Rockland), Kathleen Meil (D-Rockport), Elinor Goldberg (D-Hope), John Spear (D-South Thomaston), Emily Trask-Eaton (D-Waldoboro), Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville), Wendy Ross (D-Wiscasset), April Turner (D-Freedom), James Torbert (D-Whitefield) and Wendy Wolf (I-Boothbay Harbor). 

Last session, Democratic leaders submitted a bill to direct a committee to submit legislation that would have forced LePage to release bonds, but the measure was defeated narrowly in the Republican-controlled Senate on a vote of 18-16. Voting to defeat the bill were Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo Cty.), Rep. James Gillway (R-Searsport), Rep. Jeff Hanley (R-Pittston), Rep. Stephanie Hawke (R-Boothbay Harbor), Rep. MaryAnne Kinney (R-Knox) and Rep. Deb Sanderson (R-Chelsea). Advocates for low-income seniors say that if nothing is done the waiting list for affordable housing will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022.

 


After last November’s election, LePage said that he didn’t want to sign off on the voter-approved bond because he believes it would hurt the state’s credit rating and it “only serves the good of one person who wants to run for governor,” referring to his chief rival, House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick), who sponsored the bond legislation. 

At a press conference on Oct. 12, LePage declared that he won’t sign off on the bond until the Legislature changes the proposed senior housing units to suit his own agenda. 

“You see, you’ve got to understand,” said LePage, “the people have the right to vote and they do, but that doesn’t hold me, I don’t have to by law, I am not required to follow through exactly the way they voted it in.”

In response, Speaker Mark Eves fired off a statement, calling on the governor to honor the will of the voters. “Seniors here and throughout the state are loud and clear that the need for affordable, safe housing is only growing,” wrote Eves on Oct. 13. “One hundred and sixty-eight legislative candidates have pledged to respect the will of the voters and support legislation to immediately release the bond. The Governor must stop playing games with the well-being of seniors.”