Janet Mills faces backlash for labeling gas tax opponents “trolls”

Governor Janet Mills smiles for a picture in front of her office in the Maine State House.

AUGUSTA – Last week Governor Janet Mills told Maine Public that people posting on social media in opposition to her participation in the Transportation & Climate Initiative agreement that will result in an increased gas tax were “trolls.”

Backlash from the public in response to Mills’ comment was swift.

A Maine Examiner article covering Mills’ labeling of opponents and the overall TCI situation quickly exceeded 1,200 shares and more than 500, mostly negative reactions.

One comment from a Mainer posted on the Examiner’s Facebook post received more than 110 supportive reactions by itself. That comment read, “Enjoy being a one-term governor Ms Mills. I look forward to LePage undoing all the damage you’ve done to Maine. Proud to be a troll.”

Thousands of angry and disappointed comments flooded news feeds, calling for Mills to be voted out in the next election, hoping for a return of Governor Paul LePage and asking what happened to Mills’ “no tax increase” promise from the campaign trail.

Some comments also said that Governor Mills had wasted the state’s surplus revenue on other things and was now just looking for more money to spend to make up for it.

Maine People Before Politics, the first group to warn Mainers about the gas tax agreement Mills was participating in, said, “Janet Mills attacked us as ‘trolls’ because we oppose her policies that would increase the cost of gas.”

The post from MPBP said they are not concerned about being called names, but that Janet Mills dodged the question about her participation in the TCI agreement.

They then went on to urge Mainers to continue submitting public comment to TCI through November 5th.

Candidate for Congress Adrienne Bennett, who is seeking to represent Maine’s expansive rural second district, posted a cartoon graphic under the headline “Revenge of the Trolls?” saying, “Governor Janet Mills is callously dismissing the concerns of real Mainers who are rightly protesting her efforts to impose a punitive gas tax…”

Bennett’s graphic, which features a cartooned version of Janet Mills standing in front of a line of moving trucks at a gas station has been shared more than 500 times, nearly ten times the number of shares Mills got on her recent post announcing new electric vehicle charging stations.

The Transportation & Climate Initiative coalition of 12 states and Washington D.C. is a framework built around imposing a regional gas tax or fee, similar to California’s “cap-and-trade” program. Maine People Before Politics has pegged the initial cost to Mainers at about 20 cents per gallon.

California’s policy has been cited as one of the key drivers behind that state’s highest in the nation gas prices.

TCI is accepting public comments, which they publish on their website, through November 5th. An analysis published by Maine Examiner showed that more than half the total public comments published by TCI had come from Mainers.

The majority of those comments were opposed to Governor Mills joining the agreement.

The new effort to raise taxes on fossil fuels comes after the Maine Legislature failed to pass a carbon tax bill that would have imposed a 40 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and home heating oil when fully implemented.

That carbon tax bill, co-sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon, failed despite having the support of more than half the Democrats in the Maine Legislature.

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