Maine lawmakers discuss fuel tax increase

| 6/1/2009

Mindful of declining fuel tax revenues and slumping available funds for road work, a legislative panel in Maine is considering efforts that would phase in increases in the state’s fuel tax by as much as 11 cents.

Currently, the state’s per gallon tax on diesel is 29.6 cents, and 28.4 cents for gas. The tax rates are indexed to inflation. The distinction allows the tax rates to be adjusted annually.

During what is supposed to be their final meeting of the session, the Transportation Committee is scheduled to discuss proposals Monday, June 1, that also would stop tying the tax to inflation.

Advocates for the higher tax rates say they would ease a 23 percent drop in fuel tax revenues. Others say that despite the aid of federal stimulus funds being applied to road and bridge work, the gap between available funds and the cost of projects will only expand.

Opponents say now, with the poor economy, is not the time to increase the burden on consumers.

Transportation Committee clerk Kathie Bilodeau said any effort to make changes to the tax rates must emerge from committee on Monday. The panel is expected to wrap up their work for the year when the hearing ends.

“They’ll be finishing up on everything, unless there’s another extension,” Bilodeau told Land Line.

If the committee decides to pursue tax increases, support in the Legislature is not assured. House and Senate Democrats, which are the majority party in both chambers, have given tentative support for the plan. But they said they won’t move forward without bipartisan support.

While Gov. John Baldacci has opposed tax increases in the past, the governor said he would consider a proposal if it has broad bipartisan support, the Portland Press Herald reported

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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