Janet Mills’ (D) state budget does not have enough money to meet Mills’ “clean transportation” goals and her administration is now floating ideas for new sources of funding, including a gas tax, according to a report the administration released this month.
The Maine Clean Transportation Roadmap, dated December 2021, reveals that the Mills administration will need to find the monetary means to stay on track to hit its decarbonization targets, which involve incentivizing Mainers to purchase electric vehicles, investing in vehicle charging infrastructure, reducing motor vehicle miles traveled, and more. One section of the report details that electric vehicle rebates and vehicle charging infrastructure, i.e., expanded access to charging stations, will cost the state tens of millions of dollars annually through 2025 and observes that “clearly, existing funding sources are insufficient.” That section of the report notes that in addition to federal funding available through President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill — the $1.2 trillion legislation packed with leftist carveouts that the president signed last month — “Maine could develop a new funding source, such as a clean fuel standard, road user charge [or VMT (vehicle miles traveled) tax], gas tax, carbon mechanism, and/or vehicle feebate program” to fill the financial gaps. Gov. Janet Mills is greeted by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at a news conference at Acadia National Park, June 18, 2021, in Winter Harbor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) In another section, identifying goals for reducing miles traveled via motor vehicles, the report aims to deter drivers by financially burdening them, noting, “The assessment of fees can be an effective strategy to influence transportation system user behavior.” It adds that “the most common pricing strategies are fuel taxes, tolls, and mileage-based fees.
These fee schemes generate revenue for maintenance of the transportation system and aim to reduce VMT per person.” The report notes that Maine’s gas tax of $0.30 per gallon has gone unchanged since 2013 and that the Maine Constitution limits fuel revenue to funding highways and bridges and traffic law enforcement.
The gas tax proposals come as gas prices across the country have surged in recent months, straining average Americans’ budgets as the cost of fuel heads toward breaking a ten-year percent increase record, per a Wall Street Journal report. AAA on Thursday showed a national average fuel cost of $3.32 per gallon, down about ten cents from a month ago but up by more than a dollar over last year. Maine’s average fuel cost is currently about ten cents higher than the national average, at $3.44 per gallon.
The Maine Republican Party raised alarm bells over the green-energy roadmap, calling the gas tax idea “tone-deaf” amid soaring prices at the pump. “Calling for a new gas tax while Mainers face incredibly high gas prices is the most tone-deaf move by a Maine politician in a long time,” Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage said in a statement Thursday. “Janet Mills is deeply, deeply out of touch and her proposal to raise gas taxes should be rejected by anyone who cares about Mainers trying to get through this winter.” Contributing to the roadmap report were consultants, an advisory group, and several members of the Mills administration.
The report was released by the governor’s Office of Energy and Office of Policy Innovation and the Future but caveated that the “analysis and opinions are those of the authors and not of the State of Maine.” Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.
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