Mainers will be given a vote on new government debt of over $1 billion
January 26, 2023
For immediate release
Contact: Willy Ritch 207-841-8400 | [email protected]
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced today that she had certified more than enough signatures to qualify the No Blank Checks proposal for a statewide vote this November. The proposal would give Maine voters the chance to approve or reject new government debt of over $1 billion.
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 they 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 the Pine Tree Power campaign have resisted this proposal and tried to discourage voters from signing the No Blank Checks petition.
“It says a lot that the people behind the Pine Tree Power proposal have gone to great lengths to try and avoid this referendum. First, they tried legal maneuvering to avoid having to get voter approval for their debt, and when that didn’t work, they told voters not to even sign the No Blank Checks petition. They have done everything they can think of to keep Mainers from knowing the true cost of their proposal and are trying to stop us from having a say on whether they can put us billions of dollars in debt,” said Willy Ritch, executive director of the No Blank Checks campaign. “Pine Tree Power is an expensive, risky scheme and the more Maine voters know about that, the more they think it’s a bad idea.”
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 quasi government 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, to receive voter approval before borrowing money that must be paid back by ratepayers. The Pine Tree 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.