Inside Augusta

Pay attention to looming gas tax increase

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Progressive lawmakers are in pursuit of an ever-expanding state government in Augusta. Their neglecting to properly fund our infrastructure, and then declaring a crisis that can only be fixed with more and more taxpayer dollars, is a prime example of the bloated, dysfunctional and out-of-touch government that has plagued our state for years.

When was it decided that it is okay to neglect funding our infrastructure while ballooning other state government spending? Maine’s transportation funding shortfall is a manufactured crisis being used as an excuse to once again fleece state taxpayers.

We don’t have a revenue problem in Maine, we have a revenue allocation problem. Plenty of money existed in state coffers to fix our transportation funding shortfall, it was just spent in the wrong places (needlessly growing government) during biennial budget negotiations. Despite what you hear from some lawmakers or the media, there is no legitimate need to raise taxes on hardworking Mainers to fix this problem; the money has been there from the beginning.

In a move consistent with her political beliefs, Gov. Janet Mills grew state government by nearly $800 million dollars on unnecessary wants, instead of needs, in the current budget. Then she and her allies in the legislature declared a crisis in transportation funding and formed a Blue Ribbon Commission to figure out the best way to take more money from hardworking Mainers.

Meanwhile, the transportation shortfall sits at $232 million. If we restructured the excise tax, re-appropriated revenues from transportation-related sales taxes, and spent more wisely during budget negotiations, the shortfall would not exist today and no tax increases would be needed.

It is my belief that the governor is leaving the proposed 17 cent gas tax increase from the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), yet another climate change scam, as a looming possibility so lawmakers will settle for the smaller gas tax increase that will eventually be proposed by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

This scheme could give her the sought-after political cover to meet her pledge to not raise taxes. If implemented, not a single penny of the money Maine collected from the TCI racket would help fund the road work we desperately need. The fact that she has set up a Blue Ribbon Commission, which is discussing a separate gas tax increase, reeks of political manipulation.

Either of these gas taxes can be used by unprincipled politicians and special interest lobbyists as a bargaining chip in this high stakes game of poker that uses your money, and will ultimately make it more expensive to start your car and go about your daily business.

The Blue Ribbon Commission and the TCI gas tax being discussed simultaneously is suspicious and consistent with the pattern often seen in Augusta. Progressives ask for outlandishly big increases to taxes or spending in order to sucker well-intentioned lawmakers into taking a seat at the negotiating table. Then both sides settle somewhere in the middle, giving progressives what they wanted all along.

This isn’t good-faith negotiating. This is Lucy holding, and Charlie Brown thinking he’s finally going to get a clean kick at the football.

Beware in the coming months as politicians claim victory for marginally raising your taxes, and just remember they never really had to do so to fix this problem.

About Rich Cebra

Rep. Rich Cebra, of Naples, is serving his sixth term in the Maine House of Representatives. He represents District 68 which includes the towns of Baldwin, Cornish, Naples, Parsonsfield (part) and Sebago.

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