Commentary

The Press Herald is Wrong on the Gas Tax

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“Struggling Mainers should suck it up and pay a higher gas tax. We need better roads!”

Does that sound like an effective infrastructure policy to you? Does it sound like an appropriate path forward, given that hardworking Mainers are already burdened by high taxes and slow economic growth?

And yet, that is essentially the argument that was made by the Portland Press Herald in a recent editorial.

Rather than suggest a common-sense solution, such as cutting other non-essential spending to free up funding that can be used for infrastructure projects, the Press Herald proclaimed that a higher gas tax is the best way to pay for improving our roads.

They even went as far as asserting that raising the gas tax would be a “bargain” and that it’s an opportunity “we can’t afford to pass up.”

But the Press Herald Editorial Board must have been using the new Common Core math when they arrived at these conclusions.

The average Mainer drives roughly 15,420 miles per year on a car that gets just below 17 miles per gallon, and therefore purchases roughly 920 gallons of gas per year.

With Maine’s current gas tax at $.30 per gallon, drivers are already forking over almost $300 per year just for filling up their car with gas.

By raising the gas tax nearly 17% (which is what the Press Herald wants) drivers would be forced to forfeit nearly another $50 per year.

For individuals and families struggling just to get by, $50 is a significant amount of money. Given the Press Herald’s supposed commitment to helping low-income workers, and its vocal support for endeavors such as raising the minimum wage, it’s shocking and troubling they would characterize this type of sacrifice as a “bargain.”

Furthermore, the gas tax is one of the most regressive forms of taxation (even according to the liberal think tank that the Press Herald cited in their editorial) it’s astonishing that they would take such a hypocritical position.

Improving Maine’s roads and bridges is a serious and pressing issue, and one that is central to encouraging economic growth and development. I believe that providing adequate means and opportunities for transportation is a core function of government, and one that is not given enough attention.

However, Maine’s aging and deteriorating roads can’t be fixed by waving a magic wand and by just increasing the gas tax. This isn’t a problem we can easily fix by taking more money from Maine drivers and workers.

We need a comprehensive solution that utilizes sensible spending cuts, and doesn’t create more problems than it solves.

One fact that the Press Herald surprisingly failed to mention in it’s editorial is that Maine has one of the lower gas taxes in the nation, and the second lowest in New England (behind just New Hampshire at $.23 per gallon).

While this distinction may not attract more visitors to Maine, it certainly doesn’t drive away those tourists that our Vacationland economy is dependent upon.

So let’s resist the urge to increase taxes, allow Maine to keep this small advantage over its neighbors, and focus on a sensible infrastructure policy.

About Patrick Marvin

Patrick Marvin is a former Policy Analyst for The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of New Hampshire, and has an extensive background in analysis and research.

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