Maine’s governor and Department of Transportation justified support for the bill for the same reason as in other states: With infrastructure repair funds tied to revenue from gas taxes, fuel-sippers and fuel-avoiders don’t pay their fair share of road use. Even super-green California has given in to necessity, planning to charge PHEV drivers $100 starting in 2020. Maine’s highway maintenance fund has borrowed about $100 million each year for the past two years to limit its shortfall, yet still runs $60 million per year into the red. If Maine’s 19,450 hybrid and EV owners — who represent less than 3 percent of the state’s passenger vehicles — pay the proposed fees, they’ll shrink the overdraft by around $2.9 million per year.
The governor and a state representative have floated at least two other ideas for generating more infrastructure revenue, but both are given little chance of passage. The governor has made it clear he won’t countenance raising the state’s gas tax, which increased to 30 cents per gallon in 2011.
As one might expect, hybrid and EV drivers and Maine environmental groups are united in opposition to L.D. 1806. Drivers believe “legislation deliberately targets them for protecting the environment and their wallets without really addressing the state’s chronically underfunded highway fund.” The National Resources Council of Maine and the Maine Audobon Society both testified against the bill, saying it sends a bad message about U.S. energy priorities, and in some cases would see hybrid and EV drivers contribute more in road taxes than drivers of ICE cars. Said a Maine DOT official, “We think drivers should be paying some sort of fee, let’s talk about what amount would be appropriate.”