Gov. Paul LePage wants to ensure that drivers of electric cars are contributing their fair share to the cost of maintaining roads.

LePage’s comments came during his weekly radio appearance on WVOM amid a discussion about a trip to Boston the governor has scheduled next week on the expansion of electric car charging stations.

The bulk of road maintenance costs for state and federal highways come from the gas tax. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon; Maine charges an additional 30 cents a gallon, which ranks the state roughly in the middle of the pack nationally.

Electric cars and hybrids — which use a mix of gasoline and battery power — don’t pay as much gas tax as drivers of traditional cars because they don’t burn as much gas. Numerous states are grappling with the problem.

“Hybrids are getting a free ride on our roads,” LePage said. “The Legislature is going to have to address: ‘How do they share in paying for our roads?’”

The governor did not offer a concrete proposal, but he said an increase in the sales tax on automobiles or an increase in excise taxes could be solutions.

During the 2014 Maine Transportation Conference, LePage said he opposed raising the state gas tax, but would be open to raising the federal tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993. Maine has a significant maintenance backlog for roads and bridges and lawmakers here and elsewhere have been struggling with how to fund those projects in an era of more fuel-efficient cars and declining gas tax revenues.

LePage also raised a related issue that he has long discussed: Whether municipalities are using all of their excise tax revenues to fix local roads. Excise taxes are paid in your annual vehicle registration. Maine towns and cities bring in some $200 million or more annually in excise taxes.

LePage said he suspects larger service center communities are using the money elsewhere — which he said is what happened when he was mayor of Waterville before becoming governor.

“The excise tax was intended for roads,” he said. “They’re not spending nearly what they get in for our local roads.”

Augusta lawmakers have debated numerous solutions in recent years, including increasing the state gas tax and funding some road and bridge maintenance with bonds, but have not yet settled on a remedy.


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