On the face of it, this seems like a fair concept. In fact it garnered some spirited debate among members of my own family, who like all Mainers, are subject this time of year to a profusion of bone-shaking potholes. In my mind, however, this is a punitive bill designed to mask (and not mask effectively) the fact that our gas tax has not kept up with inflation, while simultaneously zinging the perceived liberalism of economical car owners. Moving as we are now, out of a period of historically low gas prices, we missed a perfect opportunity to painlessly raise the gas tax and better keep our roads in shape. Instead, the governor wants to penalize people who are seeking to mitigate their carbon footprints.
If 10% of our 1,500,000 Maine-registered cars were plug-ins, I think the argument that there might need to be some sort of alternative tax to cover road wear, to offset what would have been paid in gas tax, is a debate that would at least be worth having. But certainly not right now, when we should be doing all we can to increase the use of those vehicles. Plenty of fossil-fuel subsidies support, at least indirectly, Suburbans and Denalis. I'm more than happy to give-drivers of low emission vehicles a tiny little tax savings.
We do need more funding for our roads and bridges, and I support ways to develop that. Ultimately, I would like to see road taxes based on total miles driven and, even better, vehicle weight, possibly metered in conjunction with the gas tax. Those factors are what are busting up the roads, not a few Priuses and Nissan Leaves.