AUGUSTA – “Competently managing decline” is usually not how any executive wants to start their second year on the job, but Governor Janet Mills’ transportation chief admitted last week that is exactly what they are doing. The statement drew harsh criticism from Maine People Before Politics, a group that closely follows the work of state government. They see the statement as a set-up tactic by the Mills administration to pass a gas tax after Mills failed to appropriate any additional funding in the recently passed state budget, despite an overall state spending increase of more than 10%.
Maine DOT Commissioner
Bruce Van Note said in an official statement when announcing that Maine DOT
will only do two years of work in the upcoming three year work plan, “The
reality is that we are now competently managing a slow decline of our
transportation system until bipartisan funding solutions materialize.”
has record revenue! This is about priorities. The Mills Administration should
not be managing the slow decline of anything,” said a statement from Maine
People Before Politics.
Governor Mills and the Legislature had an extra $780 million to add to the
budget, they did not put any of that into fixing roads and bridges. Now they
complain there is not enough money, and tell you to be satisfied with the “slow
decline” or pay more gas taxes,” MPBP added.
Referencing Janet Mills’ interviews with Mal Leary on Maine Public last year and on WGAN Radio this week, MPBP says the whole situation is a set up to convince Mainers to go along with a gas tax, “It seems clear that Janet Mills is setting up the Commission to call for a gas tax, excise tax or other fee increase that she can simply then “accept” as a solution. After all, it won’t be “her” idea to raise taxes . . .”
In interviews, Governor Mills has pushed the responsibility for providing transportation funding solutions to a “Blue Ribbon Commission” that Governor Mills herself created last year with the stroke of her pen.
“Remember, just last year Mills and the liberals
controlling Maine’s Legislature spent nearly $800 million more than the year
before. But not a dime of that new spending went to roads and bridges,” says
the MPBP statement.
“Instead, the Legislature established a
Blue-Ribbon Commission, signed into law by Governor Mills, to study funding
options and recommend a solution. This Commission met five times with three
more subcommittee meetings. What did they propose? A bill to let them meet some
As Maine Examiner has previously reported, Democrats
on the Blue Ribbon Commission are pushing for an increased gas tax, expanding
toll booths across Maine’s highways, or a combination of both.
Republicans have pointed to the idea of redirecting transportation related sales tax funds to the transportation fund instead of allowing it to flow into the Maine’s general fund. That would effectively close Maine’s transportation funding shortfall but could impact spending to other programs Democrats place as higher priority.
In rolling out the new Maine DOT work plan, Maine DOT said they would not be doing as much work as in the previous budgets under Gov. Paul LePage.
“This Work Plan largely consists of spreading what used to be two years of capital projects over three years to stay within funding and cost constraints,” says the statement.
Maine DOT appears to also blame the rising cost of labor for part of the problem, “Due to cost increases arising from workforce challenges, work constraints, and other factors, making old projects whole at the beginning of this Work Plan process has required an extraordinary amount of funding.”
The system won’t collapse immediately, says Maine DOT.
“The system will not fail immediately, and we will do our best to avoid any serious safety impacts, but holding actions only work for a short time, and the reliability of the system will suffer,” says the Maine DOT announcement.
That statement doesn’t satisfy MPBP.
“Be aware, as you hit potholes this spring, the Mills Administration is preparing to hit your wallet. Maine State Government is taking in record revenues. So… what is Janet Mills doing to fix our roads? The Mills Administration is telling Mainers that everyone must suffer from bad roads until you agree to pay more.”