As President Joe Biden urges Congress to suspend the federal gas tax amid record-high nationwide average prices, Gov. Janet Mills said that she does not support suspending the state’s gas tax.
Mills’ spokesperson Lindsay Crete told the Portland Press Herald that Mills doesn’t object to Congress temporarily suspending the federal gas tax if Congress ensures that doing so doesn’t jeopardize Maine’s federal match for transportation and infrastructure projects.
Mills wouldn’t commit to supporting a proposal in March from GOP lawmakers’ to suspend the state’s gas tax for the rest of the year. However, she garnered bipartisan support to send out $850 relief checks to Mainers, which are now on their way to mailboxes across the state.
In order to suspend the gas tax, a special legislative session would have to be called, an option that state officials did not comment about on Wednesday evening.
The state’s gas tax adds 30 cents to each gallon, and the federal gas tax adds 18.4 cents per gallon for gas and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel.
If the state gas tax were suspended, it would save someone who drives approximately 15,000 miles per year in a vehicle that gets an average of 25 miles per gallon about $45 over a period of three months, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. A suspension of the federal gas tax would save drivers about $28 over a period of three months.
“The average Maine family is expected to receive $1700 in relief money from Governor Mills and the Legislature — delivering more than ten times the relief (or more than $1,500 in relief for the average family) than a temporary suspension of the gas tax,” Crete said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “Delivering relief in this way also provides Maine people with the freedom to spend that money in the manner they believe is best for them, whether that be on groceries, gas, or other items.”
Suspending the tax for three months would also remove approximately $57.5 million in revenue from the state’s Highway Fund, a Maine DOT spokesperson told the Press Herald. It would also reduce local road assistance by $3.6 million, and would result in about a $44.3 million loss in revenue for the Maine DOT.
“As I have previously said, given high gas prices I support a temporary suspension of the gas tax. However, that step is just one of many I’ve been pushing for since last fall to address high prices at the pump,” Rep. Jared Golden said in a statement on Thursday night.
It is unclear whether Biden will have enough support to enact a federal gas tax suspension, with Sen. Susan Collins calling the measure a “gimmick” that wouldn’t significantly affect prices at the pump and Sen. Angus King saying that he worries the suspension “won’t make a significant impact at the pump while harming our nation’s abilities to maintain roads and bridges,” the Press Herald reported.