AUBURN, Maine — Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, proposed suspending the gas tax while the legislature was still in session, and now she's asking Gov. Janet Mills to call state lawmakers back to Augusta and revisit the suspension.
U.S. President Joe Biden wants to suspend the federal gas tax as part of his month-long focus to fight the country's record-high inflation.
"It will provide families some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room, as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul," President Biden told media.
The president is urging states to find ways to provide relief, too. Rep. Libby proposed a bill at the end of the last legislative session to suspend the state gas tax for the remainder of 2022, but that bill never made it to the floor.
"I've asked Governor Mills to call the legislature back for a special session so that we can pass this gas tax suspension, for once and for all," Libby told NEWS CENTER Maine.
Every time you go and fill up your gas tank you are paying 18 cents to the federal gas tax, and here in Maine you are paying 30 cents to the state gas tax. That means you are paying 48 cents to each gallon of gas you put in your tank. But if both of those taxes are suspended, the average price of gas in Maine will go from $5.09 to $4.61.
Rep. Libby says that would provide much-needed relief to Maine families.
"Everything that we consume is brought in by truck, by and large, and when you look at the prices of everything we're paying at the grocery store those are directly related to the prices that we're paying at the pump," Libby told NEWS CENTER Maine.
The majority of the state gas tax goes to the Maine Department of Transportation. MaineDOT spokesperson Paul Merrill wrote the following statement in an e-mail:
"Eliminating this revenue for three months would remove an estimated $57.5 million from the Highway Fund, which would translate to approximate losses of $44.3 million for MaineDOT, $7.5 million for the Secretary of State's office, and $5.8 million for the Department of Public Safety. Communities across Maine would receive $3.6 million less in Local Road Assistance."
Merrill adds that suspending the state gas tax for three months would only save the average driver 45 dollars.
NEWS CENTER Maine asked Gov. Mills' office if she has plans to call the legislature back to discuss a gas tax suspension.
Gov. Mills' Press Secretary Lindsay Crete issued the following statement in an e-mail to NEWS CENTER Maine:
“The Governor has no objection to Congress temporarily suspending the Federal gas tax, so long as Congress ensures that Maine’s Federal match for transportation and infrastructure projects is fully met and that Maine’s infrastructure work is not jeopardized.
“The Governor was also willing to consider a temporary suspension of the State gas tax, which would have required legislative approval; but a proposal to do just that did not advance in the Legislature. Instead, the Legislature coalesced around Governor Mills’ proposal to send more than half of the state’s surplus back to Maine people in the form of $850 relief checks, as a better way to help people across the state.
“That proposal garnered strong bipartisan support, including from Republicans and Independents, and is one of the strongest relief proposals in the country. In fact, the average Maine family is expected to receive $1700 in relief money from Governor Mills and the Legislature.
“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. These checks are arriving in the mailboxes of Maine people right now.
“The Governor is pleased that the President is now calling on other states to follow Maine’s lead in delivering direct relief to their citizens."