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. While I remain disappointed that there is no relief for taxpayers, especially low- middle income earners, I am pleased to report at least one positive policy that the 131st Legislature has adopted that will benefit all of us. Going forward, there is now a dedicated, stable funding source for our roads, bridges and transportation network.
I believe the best legislation usually results from all parties coming together to agree on a solution.
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. The increasing fuel efficiency of gas powered vehicles and electric vehicles that do not pay gas tax, have made the problem worse, since declining gas tax revenues fund transportation.
For years, Republicans have sought to allocate more tax dollars to fund transportation, instead of continually borrowing money. This year, because Republicans and Democrats worked together, a long-term solution was passed and signed by Governor Mills. The signing of 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.
This will benefit Maine for years to come. Every aspect of Maine living and its economy is related to our roads, bridges, ports and airports. I hope that the cooperation shown during negotiations on the Highway Fund budget can extend to other areas. The best legislation usually result from all parties working together to agree on a solution.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in the Maine House. I love hearing your thoughts and concerns, and appreciate your input!
Please let me know if there are bills or issues of concern to you, or if you have questions involving state agencies. I can be reached at Caleb.Ness@legislature.maine.gov.
Rep. Caleb Ness (R-Fryeburg)