Editorial By Representative Andrew McLean of Gorham
In my view, there is nothing more fundamental than the work our government does to provide for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.
Our transportation network of roads, bridges, airports, rail lines, seaports, and bike and pedestrian facilities is critical to the success of our economy.
During times of great peril and when our country had fewer means than we do now, we invested in our infrastructure. During the Civil War, we built the Transcontinental Railroad.
During the Great Depression, we built the Hoover Dam, and, right after World War II, we constructed our Interstate Highway System. These were - and continue to be - monuments of our collective will and vision.
While previous generations constructed these engineering marvels, over the last few years we have not even been able to find the funding to maintain our state’s basic assets.
Traffic congestion, pedestrian and driver safety, damage to vehicles from bad roads, businesses that don’t have easy access to market - all of these and more cost our economy millions of dollars every year.
In fact, the Maine Department of Transportation has estimated that we need $160 million every single year just to keep up with basic maintenance.
There’s no way around it. It’s going to cost money to fix this problem and there will be growing pains until we get there.
The only way to succeed in building a long-lasting statewide infrastructure is by ensuring everyone - gas companies, consumers, green car manufacturers and communities - have equal stakes in the outcome.
This session I have a bill which combines Republican and Democratic proposals to fund improvements in Maine’s infrastructure by raising revenue from four sources, including gas sales, motor vehicle and green vehicle registrations and the sales tax.
Gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in over a decade, and yet the gas tax hasn’t been adjusted.
Motor vehicle registration fees have not been raised since the 1970s and actually cost the state money.
Hybrid and electric car producers pay less or nothing at all while still using our roads and bridges.
And our sales tax, while taxing transportation related items such as tires, motor fuel and other items, currently doesn’t pay for our infrastructure needs, and it should.
My bill is a starting point. There are many other ideas that could be viable options for raising revenue to pay for a long-term plan to improve Maine’s infrastructure.
This issue is not just important to people who sit on the left or right side of the political spectrum.
It doesn’t matter if we come from Kittery or Fort Kent. We don’t drive on Democratic roads or Republican roads - we drive on Maine roads.
Now more than ever, we need an honest and constructive conversation on how to fix our transportation. And, frankly, there couldn’t be a better time. Without a solution, we will continue to tread water, falling further and further behind every year.
Our economy is counting on bold and innovative leadership on this issue. This bill and these ideas begin that conversation.