The Legislature continued its work in June after adjourning in March, then immediately going into Special Session in order to prevent a Republican backed income tax proposal that would have returned some of the projected surplus to taxpayers by lowering income tax rates. Although I am disappointed that money has not been returned to taxpayers, I am happy to report one major achievement that resulted from bipartisanship. After years of underfunding our roads, bridges and transportation network, then asking voters to borrow money every two years, the Legislature agreed on a dedicated, stable funding source going forward.
I strongly believe that the best legislative solutions almost always result from Republicans and Democrats working together to benefit all Maine people.
For years, the Legislature has neglected funding for Maine’s large, aging, transportation network. Instead, after all available general fund money has been allocated/spent, the Legislature sends a $100 million transportation bond proposal to voters for approval. Voters approve it because of the need and the fact that it will draw matching federal funds. The funding has not been enough to keep pace with the needs of our aging transportation network. Funding for transportation from the gas tax has steadily declined as the fuel efficiency of gas powered vehicles and number of electric vehicles has increased.
Republicans have long advocated for allocating more tax dollars to transportation needs instead of continually asking voters to borrow money. This session, Republicans and Democrats worked together on a long-term solution that was signed by Governor Mills. LD 259, with a key Republican funding amendment, follows overwhelming support from Maine’s House and Senate.
The new law creates a sustainable source of funding for the Highway Fund by dedicating 40 percent of the 5.5 percent sales tax on vehicle purchases and 40 percent of sales and use taxes collected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It is expected to generate more than $200 million for infrastructure repair per biennium.
A steady, predictable source of funding for Maine’s transportation network will benefit all of us, since every part of Maine life depends on it. The best legislation usually results from all parties working together on solutions. I hope that the cooperation shown during negotiations on the Highway Fund budget can extend to other areas.
I appreciate the support I have received from constituents and the opportunity to continue serving you in the Maine House. If there is anything I can do to assist you, or if you have questions or concerns involving state agencies, please contact me at Jim.Thorne@legislature.maine.gov.
Sincerely, Rep. Jim Thorne