Mainers would be given a vote on new government debt of over $1 billion
December 27, 2022
For immediate release
Contact: Willy Ritch 207-841-8400 | [email protected]
The No Blank Checks campaign today submitted over 93,000 signatures to the Maine Secretary of State in support of a referendum next year (November, 2023) which would give Maine voters the chance to approve or reject new government debt of over $1 billion. (The campaign collected over 103,000 total signatures, but since some signatures were not certified as valid by town clerks, only 93,000 were submitted to the Secretary of State.)
Backers of the Pine Tree Power proposal to take over the state’s privately-owned utilities—Central Maine Power and Versant Power—want voters to approve the seizure of these companies without knowing how much that would cost. Although backers of the Pine Tree Power proposal have been reluctant to discuss the true cost, outside experts put the price at $13.5 billion—all of which would end up as debt that Maine ratepayers would have to pay off through their electric bills. The No Blank Checks initiative would require a separate, statewide vote to approve such borrowing. The organizers of Pine Tree Power have resisted this proposal and tried to discourage voters from signing the petition that was turned in today.
“No Blank Checks is about as commonsense as it gets,” said Willy Ritch, executive director of the campaign. “If we are going to be on the hook for billions of dollars in government debt, voter should get the final say on whether to take that on. But the Pine Tree Power crowd has done everything they can to try and keep this requirement from applying to them. It’s pretty clear that they are afraid that when Maine voters find out how much their government-controlled power scheme costs it will be rejected.”
The Maine Secretary of State’s office now has 30 days to certify the signatures. A total of just over 63,000 valid signatures are needed.
The Maine State Constitution, Article IX, Section 14, requires, in most cases, a statewide vote to approve any borrowing by the State of Maine backed by the credit of the State. This constitutional obligation does not apply to revenue bonds issued by municipalities and other government entities including publicly owned transmission and distribution utilities, like the proposed Pine Tree Power. Currently, there is no law in Maine that requires a publicly owned transmission and distribution utility, including Pine Tree Power, from receiving voter approval before borrowing money that must be paid back by ratepayers. The Our Power initiative proposed does not provide for voter oversight of the borrowing by this proposed new government-controlled entity, therefore the No Blank Checks initiative is therefore needed to fill this gap. It will ensure that Maine voters have a say before Pine Tree Power can borrow billions of dollars to seize the assets of Maine’s existing transmission and distribution utilities.