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    Focus on Midcoast Region

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Today's Poll

Do you support LD 149 as a way to attract and retain Maine’s future workforce?
Choices
Poll Description

Sen. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, is sponsoring a bill, LD 149, that would ask voters to approve a $250 million bond issue to ease student debt. Under Libby’s proposal, if voters approved, the $250 million bond would fund a program administered by the Finance Authority of Maine to help pay off student loan debt for individuals who agree to live and work in Maine for five years. It also would reimburse employers that make student loan debt payments on behalf of their employees who agree to live and work in Maine for five years. 

Andrea Cianchette Maker, a partner at Pierce Atwood, testified in support of the bill on behalf of Acadia Insurance and IDEXX Laboratories. Citing figures from the Project on Student Debt, Maker noted the average student loan indebtedness for Mainers is $31,364, which is 10th highest in the nation. In total, she said, Mainers owe more than $6 billion in student debt.

“If enacted, LD 149 could be a game-changer for our state,” Maker wrote. “It will significantly help Maine attract and retain a desperately needed future workforce by helping our workers get out from under college debt in an expedited manner. After that debt is paid, they will be fully engaged in Maine's economy and in a much better position to invest in their futures here in Maine, from buying a first home to raising a family.”

At its May 9 public hearing, the bill received support from Behavioral Health Community Collaborative, Maine Association of Realtors, Maine State Employees Association, AARP Maine, Finance Authority of Maine, Maine Tourism Association, Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and a number of individuals who shared personal stories about how their student debt adversely affects their lives.

Of the 27 people testifying at the hearing, only a few opposed Libby’s bill outright  — essentially saying the state’s resources are not unlimited and the bond would divert funding from other essential needs.

The fiscal statement attached to the bill indicates a 10-year $250 million bond would require another $65.3 million to pay off at a 4.75% interest rate, for a total cost of $315.3 million.