In 2020, Maine’s Blue-Ribbon Commission on Transportation found the system’s unmet capital need to be $330 million annually. The fuel tax revenue in Maine is currently estimated to bring in approximately $230 million per year. Accordingly, a nine-month gas tax holiday would cost the State Highway Fund $173 million.
“This proposal means well but it won’t work,” said Maria Fuentes, executive director of Maine Better Transportation Association. “User fees such as those paid at the pump fund the lion’s share of Pixing our roads, and we know Maine voters support transportation whenever it is on the ballot. We count on these revenues to match critical federal funds.”
“Maine ranks seventh in the nation for the most bridges in poor condition, and our pavement consistently ranks poorly compared to other states,” she added. “We need safe bridges and good roads, and this proposal would just put us further behind.”
Today fuel tax revenues provide two-thirds of state highway fund revenues and $11 million in local road assistance. While other fees and costs have increased over the years, Maine’s gas tax of 30-cents per gallon has not changed since 2011 and is not indexed to inflation.
“We understand the inclination to provide additional relief to Mainers right now. The gas tax is a user fee that provides consistent resources to repair our critical roads and bridges. We cannot afford to take a giant step back, and that’s evident from the current pothole season,” said Matt Marks, CEO of AGC Maine.
Gas tax funds allow MaineDOT to maintain and operate the system we have, including conducting critical operations like snow Pighting, pothole patching, and Light Capital Paving of over half of the state’s roads that are often in the worst condition – over 700 miles per year.
“In a rural state there is no question we are entirely dependent on our roads and bridges, noted Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “And we appreciate the intent of this proposal, which acknowledges that citizens, businesses, and communities are being hit with much higher costs, due to fuel prices and to inflation. As a former commissioner of MaineDOT, I also know that our businesses count on the annual maintenance and upkeep to our transportation infrastructure. Our concern is that the revenue loss would upend operations that Mainers expect, including the tremendous effort to maintain our roads during inclement weather, which makes this a safety issue.” He added: “Gas prices fluctuate even in the best of times, and there is no guarantee that prices won’t go back up, absent the fuel taxes.”
While the direct impact on infrastructure is clear, the savings to individual Mainers for someone who travels 20,000 miles per year and drives a car with 25 mpg would save about $20 a month during a state gas tax holiday. Rescinding this measure means Maine would not capture the gas tax from visitors during the peak summer season.
Maine Municipal Association legislative advocate Rebecca Graham notes: “Our roads swell with an estimated 35 million visitors every summer and fuel tax revenue is the only contribution those visitors make to funding mechanisms that support road maintenance and repair. With criminal justice reform efforts focused on further disincentivizing registration renewal by hindering police enforcement underway, the combination will likely mean road budgets will further turn to property tax increases to fill the gap.”
“Maine has a budget surplus and can provide direct relief to citizens without jeopardizing a mechanism that provides essential services to residents,” noted AGC’s Marks. “The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will be considering tax refunds in their current budget debate.”
“MaineDOT has a three-year work plan, and we encourage lawmakers to consider the impacts on planning if a decision is made to suspend funding. The backlog continues to build, they have other options if they wish to provide rebates to citizens, and fuel tax revenues are used to leverage federal matching funds,” Fuentes said.
For More Information:
Maria Fuentes, MBTA 207-592-0227
Dana Connors, Maine Chamber 207-458-4105
Matt Marks, AGC Maine 207-530-3001
Rebecca Graham, Maine Municipal Association 207-623-8428