Supporters and opponents of a proposal to create a new entity to take over the state’s two largest electric utilities said Friday they support a separate ballot initiative to require voter approval of borrowing over $1 billion.
No Blank Checks, which is funded by Avangrid Management Co., the parent company of Central Maine Power, is behind LD 1772, the ballot initiative to require voter approval for high dollar borrowing.
The initiative was filed in response to a separate ballot question to create Pine Tree Power, a nonprofit that would buy out CMP and Versant Power to create a new entity. Earlier this week, a legislative committee voted to send that bill directly to voters in November.
On Friday, Jim Cohen of No Blank Checks told lawmakers that getting voter approval for borrowing over $1 billion is “a common-sense proposal” to address something that’s never happened in state history.
“Very simply, the voters who signed the petition felt they should have a say whenever that amount of borrowing occurred in the state of Maine,” he told the State and Local Government Committee.
Cohen said estimates show it will take at least $8.2 billion for the new nonprofit to buy out the two companies, but it could be as high as $13.5 billion.
Our Power, the group behind the Pine Tree Power initiative, has said that figure is too high and that the true amount will likely be determined by a third-party during negotiations.
Al Cleveland of Pine Tree Power said Friday they support the borrowing question because it promotes transparency.
“It was intended to halt the efforts of the Pine Tree Power campaign by bringing fear to voters,” she said. “We know Maine voters are smarter than this and deserve to have all the information about their utilities.”
She also suggested that the committee should consider trying to require CMP and Versant to seek permission from voters if they borrow more than $1 billion.
Sen. Peter Lyford (R-Eddington) asked Cleveland whether CMP and Versant are willing to be purchased.
She said she didn’t know, but later in the hearing, a spokesman for Versant Power answered the question.
“It’s pretty clear both companies are not willing sellers in that transaction,” said James Cote of Versant Power.
The borrowing initiative is one of at least four that will be likely appear on the November ballot. In addition to the Pine Tree Power question, voters may also be asked whether to prohibit foreign government spending on referendum questions and whether to require auto manufacturers to provide independent repair shops with diagnostic data to help them make repairs.