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Janet Mills continues to take heat over new TCI gas tax as other states withdraw

Governor Janet Mills speaks at the unveiling of a state funded electric vehicle charging station.

AUGUSTA – The multi-state coalition that is proposing a gas tax of about 17 cents per gallon on Maine drivers to fund special green projects is losing member states, but Janet Mills is not one of the governors stepping away from the deal.

This week the Democrat Governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont, backed off participating in the agreement, saying that raising the gas tax through the TCI was “probably not the way to go.”

Considering Connecticut’s more compact geography and higher levels of wealth, it would stand to reason that the same thinking could apply to Maine.

A day later, Vermont Governor Phil Scott criticized the TCI in his Vermont State of the State address. That means that regionally, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut have backed away from the TCI while Massachusetts and Maine are still at the table.

The non-profit group Maine People Before Politics has been on the TCI issue since the start in Maine.

MPBP released a statement yesterday saying, “TCI’s “cap and invest” program amounts to environmental racketeering. In a protection racket, for example, businesses in a given area pay money to gangsters so they won’t be harassed. In this case, if a distributer doesn’t buy the permit, it can’t sell gas or diesel in Maine.”

MPBP is warning the public that Governor Mills may try to enter Maine into the TCI agreement without approval of the Legislature, “The perpetrators of this con call the cost of the permits a “fee,” but it’s really a tax. The money raised would be used to “invest” in clean transportation projects like electric vehicle charging stations. “Invest” is the code word for spend.

But the shell game doesn’t stop there. Using the code word “fee” might just allow the Mills Administration to push this tax in the back door by regulation instead of a vote in the Legislature.”

A report issued on the impact of the Transportation & Climate Initiative by the group itself predicts up to a 17-cent per gallon increase in the first year of the program, with more increases following as the program would impose a declining carbon cap.

Interestingly, the best the TCI group can do is say the current projected decline in emissions “could be locked in” under the plan and “potentially drive additional reductions.”

Those facts were not lost on MPBP, who said:

“The irony is that if no one does anything, current regulations and market forces will reduce emissions by 19% without any additional incentives. TCI admits this in their own supporting documents. The racket’s cost increase of 17 cents per gallon of gas will only reduce emissions by an additional 6% beyond the status quo.

It is outrageous to burden the people of Maine with a huge increase in costs for a projected 6% drop in emissions. The governors of New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut have figured this out.”

Official public comment from Maine citizens, which can be viewed on the TCI website, show lopsided opposition to the plan since the December 17th roll out of the new MOU and executive summary. Previous rounds of public comment from Maine showed similar dissatisfaction and opposition to the regional gas tax proposal.

The TCI is one of several ways Maine’s leaders are looking at raising the gas tax or cost of driving. Democrats on a blue-ribbon transportation commission have also been pushing a gas tax increase, with some also desiring to add more toll booths to Maine highways, and some Democratic lawmakers have proposed carbon taxes and gas taxes.

Those efforts are under the auspices of providing funds for repairs to roads and bridges after Governor Janet Mills’ new state budget increased spending by more than 10% but did not provide any increased funding for roads and bridges.

Governor Mills’ Climate Council Transportation Working Group has also, according to meeting minutes, been studying the TCI and other ways to reduce carbon emissions from driving over the past few months. They could recommend a gas tax, carbon tax, mileage tax or other penalty in coming months.

As some have noted, entering the TCI agreement would see Maine levying a gas tax that would hurt rural Mainers the most in order to fund green transportation projects in compact urban centers in southern Maine. None of the TCI funds would necessarily be earmarked for ordinary road and bridge repairs.

All interested parties are encouraged to weigh in with public comment at the TCI Stakeholder Input Form, which can be found by clicking the link below:

https://www.transportationandclimate.org/main-menu/tci-regional-policy-design-stakeholder-input-form

Here is the latest Summary From TCI:

https://www.transportationandclimate.org/sites/default/files/TCI%20Modeling-Results-Summary_12.17.2019.pdf