Maine Affordable Energy

Statement on Proposed Referendum

September 7th, 2021
Contact: Willy Ritch [email protected] | 207-841-8400

Reporters and editors—Here’s an on-the-record statement from me about a new referendum that was proposed today:

Today we filed an application for a citizen initiative with the Maine Secretary of State’s office to begin the process of collecting signatures to place a referendum on the ballot that would guarantee Maine voters get to weigh in on any new debt of over $1 billion proposed by a government entity.

Proponents of a government takeover of the state’s electric utilities have consistently understated the cost of seizing these private companies. The referendum we proposed today would make sure that voters—not politicians—would have the final say before the proposed government power company takes on that debt.

There are a lot of reasons why a government takeover of CMP and Versant is a bad idea—but probably the biggest one is how much it’s going to cost us. The people pushing this plan are trying to low-ball the cost, but realistically it would cost over $13 billion—and that’s debt we would owe to banks and would spend decades paying off through our electric bills. This is a very simple proposal—it just asks voters if they want to approve a debt of $1 billion or more before any quasi-government entity, including “a consumer-owned transmission and distribution utility” incurs that debt. In addition, it requires state officials to present voters with an estimate of the true cost of the debt.

The principle is straightforward: You should know how much something is going to cost before you commit to borrowing billions of dollars to buy it. None of us would take out a mortgage to buy a house without knowing how much that house costs. We wouldn’t go to our credit union and get a loan for a new car but have no idea whether the car was going to cost $20,000 or $100,000.

Attached is a copy of the proposed referendum. And to save you looking up all those exemptions in section C, they are as follows:

Title 5, Chapter 421: Maine State Retirement System
Title 10, Chapter 110: Finance Authority of Maine (FAME)
Title 20-A, Part 5: Post Secondary Education – including Maine University System
Title 22, Chapter 413: Maine Health Facilities Authority
Title 23, Part 1: Transportation related including specifically Maine Turnpike Authority and Department of Transportation
Title 30-A, Chapter 201: Maine Housing Authority
Title 30-A, Chapter 225: Maine Municipal Bond Bank