AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine could double motor vehicle inspection fees for the first increase in years to cover a new electronic system under a late-introduced proposal that got bipartisan approval in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The bill from Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, came out of near-annual discussions in Maine on whether to suspend or change the state’s vehicle inspection program. A proposal from Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, looking to exempt new vehicles from inspections for two years was instead turned into a study meant to examine issues with the system.
That group found no major problems with the requirement, but it saw a need to move to an electronic inspection system that would make it easier for garages to log information. The increase in fees would cover the costs if Maine State Police decides to contract out the program, which the bill allows it to do.
It cleared the House in a 95-39 vote on Tuesday. Most Republicans opposed the bill, although 26 voted for it. Five Democrats — Reps. Jan Dodge of Belfast, Nicole Grohoski of Ellsworth, Tavis Hasenfus of Winthrop, Chris Kessler of South Portland and Sophie Warren of Scarborough — broke ranks to oppose the measure.
The brief debate came after the bill took one pass through the chambers last week with no roll-call votes. It hints at the complicated feelings lawmakers have at imposing even a small fee increase during high inflation and an election year and awaits further action in the Senate.
“We all want safe vehicles on the road, and at the end of the day, having annual inspections is the best way to be somewhat confident we have safe vehicles on the road,” White said.
White said the increase in the fee is reasonable because it has not been raised in several years and would prevent the state from needing to ask for an additional allocation in future years.
Discussion on the bill lasted just over a minute Tuesday, with Cebra being one of two to speak against it after sparking the study that led to the change.
“I believe that now is not the time to be raising taxes or fees,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong city of residence for Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth.