AUGUSTA – Mainers who thought their battle to stop gas prices from rising ended last week when a proposed carbon tax bill was crippled will soon be facing a new reality.
A bill proposed by Rep. Andrew McLean (D – Gorham) would raise the gas tax almost 25% and increase numerous fees associated with motor vehicle registration, rentals and driving, including some increases which double or more than double current costs.
Rep. McLean’s proposal was referred to Legislature’s Taxation Committee on the same day Rep. Deane Rykerson’s Carbon Tax proposal was being criticized in a public hearing before the Energy Committee.
Rep. McLean’s bill would raise Maine’s gas tax from the current 29.5 cents up to 36.5 cents beginning on October 1, 2019.
Along with raising the gas tax, the proposal also would raise many fees associated with operating a motor vehicle:
The fee for a temporary registration plate would increase from $1 to $5.
The fee for transferring registration would increase from $8 to $13.
The fee for duplicate registrations would increase from $2 to $5.
The fee for numerous services from the Maine Secretary of State, including a certificate of salvage or a certificate of title after transfer would be increased from $33 to $43.
The fee for trailer or semi-trailer registration would rise from $18 to $28.
The fee for most driving exams would rise by $5, from class C non-commercial first driving exams all the way up to Class A commercial, bus, hazardous materials and other exams
The bill also hikes the tax on what it terms “low-energy” fuels, increasing the tax on those distillates from 30.7 cents per gallon to 37.7 cents per gallon for all suppliers, retailers and users of those fuels.
The bill language does appear to direct the increased revenue back into funding for Maine’s roads and infrastructure, but historically millions of dollars from Maine’s highway fund has been used to subsidize the state government’s general fund. The general fund provides funding for most other functions of state government.