AUGUSTA – In the month since the architects of the Transportation and Climate Initiative rolled out their draft MOU and estimates that the agreement would add a 17-cent per gallon tax on a gallon of gasoline, comments from Maine people have rolled in. Those comments, accepted through the TCI online stakeholder input form, are overwhelmingly opposed to Maine joining the agreement.
Transportation and Climate Initiative began as a compact of twelve states and
Washington D.C. that would craft an agreement to, ostensibly, reduce carbon
emissions from transportation on the east coast of the United States. The draft
framework TCI released in December showed that the coalition proposed doing
that with a tax on fossil fuels that would roughly equate to a 17-cent per
gallon tax on gasoline in the initial implementation. It would rise from there
as the TCI ratchets up pressure to further choke off emissions.
coalition would then distribute the funds for “green” transportation projects,
likely in areas with dense population centers.
that looks a lot like rural Mainers getting hit with a big tax increase to
provide funding for more urban southern Maine – something that benefits rural
Maine very little.
Since the framework
that put the 17-cent per gallon increase in black and white was released, the
Governor’s of Connecticut and New Hampshire have said they would withdraw from
the TCI compact. Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott has also signaled he is not in
Governor Janet Mills previously called opponents of the gas tax “trolls” when asked about people posting their opposition online by Maine Public. In a recent interview on WGAN, Governor Mills said she had talked to Governor Charlie Baker a couple times and that he is “very gung-ho” and a big proponent of TCI.
However, Mills said she was going to monitor it because she’s “not clear how it would pan out.” Mills also signaled she was not sure of the process the TCI had laid out and that she was not in favor of a framework that passed the tax along from the source of the gasoline to end-consumers. It’s unclear how that could be changed.
Mills then transitioned to the state’s “Blue Ribbon Commission” on
transportation funding. That commission, as Maine Examiner has reported, is
looking at several different ideas that could lead to higher costs for Maine
drivers, including expanding toll booths across Maine, raising the state gas
tax or both, as one member of the commission has said.
she hopes the commission will “put their nose to the grindstone to come up with
some long term planning” for transportation funding.
When asked a
follow up question by host Matthew Gagnon about whether the state would be
required to pass legislation entering into the TCI, Governor Mills said it was
too early to say.
gas tax or borrowing money to repair Maine’s roads and bridges has been a point
of debate in recent months. After Governor Mills’ first two-year state budget
raised spending by more than 10% without providing any additional funding for transportation
needs, the push has been on from the political left in Augusta to raise the gas
tax or incur heavy borrowing for transportation.
have argued that transportation should be prioritized in the state budget. They
point to existing money from transportation related sales tax as a simple
solution to provide adequate funding for Maine roads, and are critical of
Democrats for not prioritizing transportation funding, then pivoting to taxes
or borrowing to make up the difference.
Some of the
comments from Mainers show strong opposition.
“I do not
support this new gas tax. It will in no way make a difference in the carbon
footprint. All it will do is hurt the middle-class working people of the State
of Maine. All it will do is drive the prices of other goods up higher than they
already are. Maine is in the top 10 in the nation of states with the highest
taxes. Is Janet shooting to be number 1???” said David Cahoon of Wells, Maine.
of Dedham expressed concern that the TCI will hurt lower-income Mainers the
most, “I do not support participation in TCI. Maine is a rural state and has
many lower income earners that can not afford an increase to the cost of
transportation. The proposed gas taxes or fees would not benefit those in rural
Maine and would cause a hardship for minimal gain. I am 100% against TCI and
feel Maine needs to focus on our budget and our people.”
such as Steve Robey of Vinalhaven expressed support while criticizing the
federal government, “I really believe we need to reduce pollution from
transportation. I request that maine formally join the plan to reduce
emissions. Please ensure that the policy includes strong component of equity by
prioritizing clean investments in areas overburdened by pollution and/or for
those who don’t have access. I appreciate the bipartisan nature of this
project, moving us forward while the federal government takes us backward.”
The Transportation and Climate Initiative will continue accepting public comments through February 28th, 2020. They expect to produce a final Memorandum of Understanding in the spring of 2020. You can submit public comment at the link below: