A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.
A new ad from the Maine Republican Party stretches to pin high costs on Gov. Janet Mills, making false claims about her record on the gas tax and her link to high fuel prices.
Republicans in Maine and across the country are working hard to push economic issues after consistent polling this year finding it to be the top issue on the minds of voters, even after a surge of Democratic momentum around abortion rights has helped their standing ahead of a midterm election for the unpopular President Joe Biden.
Here’s a breakdown of the ad and its claims.
“Mills wants to raise the gas tax even higher.”
No. To bolster this claim, Republicans cite a 2021 report for the Democratic governor’s administration by saying the state could fund electric vehicle initiatives by raising the gas tax.
That is not something Mills has supported to date and the tax has remained flat at 30 cents per gallon since 2011, when former Gov. Paul LePage, the governor’s chief opponent in the November election, signed a bill from fellow Republicans that eliminated indexing.
Many business and transportation groups would like the state to raise the gas tax or find some other way to ensure regular transportation funding. A legislative effort deadlocked precisely over that issue in 2019, with Republicans indicating opposition to a tax hike.
There have been differences between Mills and LePage on the tax. Earlier this year, she and business groups opposed his proposal to suspend the gas tax, something he suggested as an alternative to the $850 relief checks that came from the governor and Legislature.
“Thanks to Janet Mills, we’re paying more to heat our homes.”
This is attributed to a Maine Public article on skyrocketing heating costs. Prices spiked worldwide earlier this year and went up again recently after a production cut by oil exporters. The price of No. 2 oil nearly doubled between June 2021 and June 2022, hammering us in the most oil-dependent state. While the pain is unique here, the problem is not.
In Republican-led New Hampshire, average No. 2 oil prices crested above $5 per gallon this week, in line with reported prices here. This is a global problem and there are things states can do to help prices on the margins, but it is not Mills’ fault overall. Nevertheless, it is always bad to be the governor stuck with it.
“Mills created a costly new grocery tax [that] could cost us almost $60 more per month.”
This claim is backed up, though it is not a direct “grocery tax.” It refers to a first-in-the-nation bill signed by Mills in 2021 aiming to shift recycling and disposal costs from consumers and municipalities to big packaging producers. The governor embraced it after winning changes, including an increase in the number of companies that were exempt from the measure.
It was backed by environmental groups and opposed by business interests who cited a Canadian university’s study that it could raise monthly grocery bills by between $32 and $59, though one Oregon study found no such correlation between similar programs and prices.