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Gov. Janet Mills labels opponents of gas tax increase “trolls”

Gov. Janet Mills speaks at the unveiling of a new state-funded electric vehicle charging station in West Gardiner.

AUGUSTA – In an interview with Maine Public, Governor Janet Mills called opponents of an increased gas tax “trolls” and said criticism was just “partisan social media attacks” that were “not worth responding to” after being asked about social media posts related to her participation in the twelve-state Transportation & Climate Initiative. Those negotiations, many say, will lead to a new 20 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel.

Mills was responding to a question from Maine Public’s Mal Leary about how he had just seen “whole bunch of social media ads” about the 20 cent per gallon tax.

A search of Facebook’s ad library showed no ads related to a Maine gas tax had run since the spring of this year, so the question was presumably about organic posts from Maine people, not paid ads, related to the Transportation & Climate Initiative gas tax hike that has been pegged at an estimated 20 cents per gallon by the non-profit organization Maine People Before Politics.

“I don’t respond to partisan social media attacks and trolls and the like, they’re not worth responding to — continuing to talk with members of both parties in the Legislature,” said Mills, before going on to frame the issue as a bipartisan problem and saying that bad roads across Maine are in Republican and Democrat districts.

Unfortunately for Mills, the state budget she proposed and pushed into law has been criticized by Republicans because Mills failed to provide any additional funding for roads, despite eventually achieving a 10% overall spending increase.

Rep. Trey Stewart, Assistant House Republican Leader said in June that Democrats put abortions, illegal immigrants and windmills ahead of roads in the new state budget and recent legislative session in an official statement from the House Republican Office.

Mills also canceled road projects this spring because the costs were too high.

Maine Public’s Leary repeatedly asked Mills about new “revenue” for road repairs and how she planned to come up with that money, but Mills would not openly admit that a gas tax or other tax or fee increase could be on the table.

At the end of the interview, Mills does appear to admit that something is in the works on a gas tax increase or fee, however, saying she hopes that a blue ribbon commission she has looking at road funding issues will meet certain criteria in finding a solution, and that one of those criteria is that it will be “based on use.”

Maine Examiner has covered numerous attempts to raise gas and fuel taxes in the past year, including a proposal, co-sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon that would have imposed a 40 cent per gallon heating oil and gas tax when fully implemented.

Other proposals included a bill to raise the gas tax by 25% and increase fees by a substantial amount as well, a proposal to implement a seasonal gas tax increase, and a proposal to increase the tax on diesel fuel by five cents.

The latest, the Transportation & Climate Initiative, would reportedly raise Maine’s gas tax by 13 to 20 cents per gallon as part of a coalition of twelve states and Washington D.C. Governor Mills is reportedly involved in those negotiations. In that agreement, however, the money would likely go to creating new public transportation, adding electric vehicle charging stations and other, more “green” projects than road construction.

Public opposition has been rolling in on the Transportation & Climate Initiative website, according to an analysis by Maine Examiner of the published comments through October 25th.

That analysis showed that half the comment among all the states in the agreement was from Maine, and most of it was opposed to the gas tax agreement.

You can read or listen to the full Maine Public interview with Governor Janet Mills by clicking here.

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