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Maine voters approve $50 million in tech: Why it matters to all of us

July 06, 2017
By: Dan Berglund

Maine voters approved a special referendum on June 13 that will issue $50 million in bonds to fund investment in research, development and commercialization in the state’s seven targeted technology sectors. The Maine Technology Institute will distribute $45 million of the funds for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades. The remaining $5 million will be used to recapitalize the Small Enterprise Growth Fund to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in qualifying small businesses. The issue passed with 61 percent (63,468) voting in favor and 38 percent (39,549) voting against it (the remaining 1 percent were blank) and passed in every county in Maine. It is the latest in a string of referendum wins in Maine and a reminder to all of us of the political appeal that investing in technology has.

Over the last 12 years, Maine voters have approved three ballot issues to support funding for investments in research and entrepreneurs. Each of those ballot issues received at least 58% of the vote and in the three elections, voters in all Maine counties — rural and urban — approved the issues every time with the exception of one county that rejected the first ballot issue by 281 votes.

The depth of support across the state can be seen in these three maps SSTI developed based on data from the Maine Secretary of State’s office.

Maine TBED ballot issues: 2005, 2014 and 2017 bond issues passage rates

The Maine election results underscore what SSTI learned when, with special support from some members, we conducted a focus group and a survey on a proposal to invest in the nation’s future by investing in science and technology for economic prosperity. In that survey, 89 percent of voters said they would support an effort to convert scientific and medical research into new businesses and jobs, bringing the benefits of the innovation economy to the American people. Support for the initiative crossed party lines and income groups.

Our survey work echoed what we had seen across the country: when voters were given the opportunity to vote on measures that invested in science and technology to build a new economy, they almost always voted in the affirmative. Approval occurred in blue states, red states and purple states.

California voters approved with 59 percent of the vote $3 billion for the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative in November 2004. In 2007, Texas voters passed a measure with 61 percent voting yes to allocate $3 billion for the Texas Cancer Prevention and Research Institute. Ohio voters on two separate occasions passed ballot measures that allocated funds to Ohio Third Frontier. In 2005, 54 percent voted for an issue to provide $500 million; the yes vote increased to 62 percent in 2010 with a $700 million allocation. (It should be noted that Ohio voters narrowly rejected the first Third Frontier ballot issue in 2003 with 51 percent voting no.)

The Maine vote, the results of our survey and past election results should give heart to those in the innovation community that there is strong popular support for investing in science and technology for economic prosperity, particularly at a time when the White House and the U.S. House of Representatives are proposing significant funding cuts to innovation activities.

 

Mainestate tbed, innovation, policy, economic development