Maine voters OK transportation bond, reject excise tax cut

| 11/5/2009

When voters in Maine visited the polling booth on Election Day, they had to make decisions about various issues on the ballot. Two questions on the statewide ballot addressed transportation funding. One was approved while the other failed.

Question 6 on the Tuesday, Nov. 3, ballot was a $71 million bond proposal for transportation projects.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters authorized bonds in the amount of $55 million for the highway fund. The rest will be directed to the general fund for such uses as railroads, ports, ferries and airports.

Officials said the road money will be used to leverage $148 million in federal funding. With the state facing an unfunded projects backlog of $3 billion during the next decade, supporters said the state can use all the help it can get.

A portion of the rail investment will be applied to shifting “rail-appropriate freight” from road to rail.

Also on the ballot was a referendum to trim the vehicle excise tax. Voters resoundingly defeated the initiative by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

Question 2 asked voters whether they want to reduce the municipal excise tax on vehicles up to six years old and exempt hybrid and other alternative-energy and highly fuel-efficient vehicles from the sales tax and three years of excise taxes.

Supporters said taxpayers stood to save $80 million annually while promoting cleaner air and better fuel efficiency.

Opponents said the lost tax revenue would have crippled municipal budgets or resulted in higher property taxes. Another issue that was brought up is that about 68 percent of all registered motor vehicles in Maine are older than five years. They would not have been affected by the change to the tax, which is used to pay for road maintenance and repair in municipalities.

Proponents countered that passage of the ballot initiative would have encouraged residents to buy newer, safer vehicles.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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