Maine statewide ballot to include excise tax, bonding initiatives

| 9/8/2009

When voters in Maine take their place in the polling booth on Election Day, they will make decisions on various issues. Among the topics on the statewide ballot are two questions addressing transportation funding.

Question 2 on the ballot will be a measure to trim the vehicle excise tax. Voters can decide whether 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.

According to the Maine Municipal Association, vehicles that are four years old or newer would have their rates cut between 50 percent and 70 percent. For vehicles in their fifth year, the rate would be cut about 40 percent.

About 68 percent of all registered motor vehicles in Maine are older than five years. They would not be affected by the change to the tax that is used to pay for road maintenance and repair in municipalities.

An MMA analysis puts the overall loss of municipal excise tax revenue as 40 percent annually.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center says with the average vehicle in the state more than 10 years old and coupled with one of the highest excise tax rates in the nation, passage of the ballot initiative would encourage residents to buy newer, safer vehicles.

Also on the ballot is a 10-year, $71 million bond proposal for transportation projects.

Question 6 asks voters whether they want to authorize bonds in the amount of $50 million for the highway fund. About $20 million more would be directed to the general fund for such uses as railroads, ports, ferries and airports.

The measures are expected to be included on the Nov. 3 ballot.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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