Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are divided on President Joe Biden’s call for a temporary suspension of the 18-cents-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden from the 2nd Congressional District was the only one to support a temporary suspension, although he added that such a move should be combined with other actions. The Democrat also said he wants Biden to release more oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and open or reopen pipelines to increase supplies.
“I continue to believe the president should use his Defense Production Act authorities to help oil and gas companies increase production and bring down prices,” Golden said in a statement. “I have also urged the President to hold a conference with American oil and gas producers to work together on a strategy to lower oil and gas prices for the American people. He still has not done that as far as I know.”
Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King said he “hasn’t made a firm decision” on the president’s proposal but he expressed concerns that gas companies will gobble up the savings and leave consumers still paying record-high prices at the pump. A former governor, King also said he is worried about how suspending the gas tax will impact the federal transportation funds that help pay for road construction and maintenance projects across the country.
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Speaking to reporters on Thursday during a virtual press conference, King predicted that many consumers will regard it as a gas tax increase when the temporary initiative ends later this year, particularly if states also suspend their taxes. Maine collects 30 cents per gallon of gasoline.
“I’m not inclined to support it because I don’t think it will end up giving us the intended result in any kind of sustainable way,” King said. “Plus, I still want to know how we are going to fill the potholes if we take away the revenues.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District didn’t say where she stood on a gas tax holiday but said “every Mainer is feeling pain at the pump.”
“I am concerned that this proposal will not go far enough to deliver relief and address the root cause of high gas prices: price gouging by Big Oil,” Pingree said in a statement. “Last month, as House Republicans fought to increase fossil fuel profits, I joined House Democrats in passing legislation to curb oil company greed. I hope the Senate will follow suit.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins questioned the proposal’s timing and said it could ultimately only lower prices a few cents per gallon while reducing money for road projects.
“The timing of the proposal is also questionable, given that the Administration is specifically targeting the three months just before the midterm elections,” Collins said. “Instead of proposing gimmicks that don’t meaningfully lower the prices Americans are paying to fill their gas and heating oil tanks, the Biden Administration should focus on working with American energy producers to responsibly increase oil and gas production here at home and support producers in Maine and elsewhere who are developing renewable fuels.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.