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The Associated Press March 10, 2010, 4:27PM ET

Maine Gov. Baldacci unveils $79M bond package

Maine Gov. John Baldacci proposed a $79 million bond package Wednesday that he contends will create nearly 2,000 jobs and "put people back to work this year."

The proposal includes $62 million in bonds for highway, port and rail projects that would be paid off with state general funds. In all, the bond package would create 1,898 jobs and preserve many existing jobs, said Baldacci spokesman David Farmer.

Democratic legislative leaders have proposed a $99 million jobs bond package, and lawmakers will attempt to reconcile the competing versions with the goal of putting a proposal before voters in June.

House Speaker Hanna Pingree said the two bond packages were similar, and she doesn't foresee any problems reconciling them. "Both are about creating jobs, getting money out this summer to rebuild the infrastructure and put people back to work. It's good news that we're all on the same page," she said.

Baldacci's announcement coincided with Wednesday's news that Maine unemployment hit 8.2 percent in January, up from 7.3 percent in January 2009.

"To climb out of this recession, job creation and protecting our economy must be the highest priority," Baldacci said as he released details of his plan.

Three bond proposals are already on the June ballot: $33.5 million for weatherization, wind power and education; $25 million for economic development, including projects at the soon-to-be-shuttered Brunswick Naval Air Station; and $10.25 million for environmental projects.

The new proposal from the governor includes money for highway work and for preserving 240 miles of track operated by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway in Aroostook County.

It calls for creating 750 jobs with $28 million for highway reconstruction and paving; preserving between 750 and 1,500 jobs by keeping the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic track in operation; and creating 80 jobs with $3 million for a municipal highway challenge grant.

It also includes $17 million for clean water, environmental and energy projects, and $5 million for a marine wind energy demonstration site at the University of Maine. In addition, bond proceeds would be used for rail improvements in Lewiston-Auburn, an Ocean Gateway Deep Water Pier in Portland and small harbor improvements.

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