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'Everything Is On The Table' As Transportation Commission Seeks Funding Sources

A legislative commission on transportation funding started its work Tuesday. The 15-member panel has been charged with finding ways to increase spending for roads and bridges, and representatives from both parties have pledged to look at all options, including taxes.

The commission is to make recommendations to the next session of the Legislature in January, and members say they agree that the state cannot continue to rely on bond issues as a major source of transportation funding. The state has a backlog of more than $150 million in projects, and the costs of repair and reconstruction are steadily increasing.

Commission members say they will consider all options, including additional tolls, fuel tax increases and new taxes aimed at electric vehicles that now pay no fuel taxes.

“We’re going to say here’s the problem. Everybody agrees there is a problem. Now, all the options that we can bring forth, put them on the table. What can we do to make it work?” says state Sen. Bill Diamond, a Democrat from Windham who co-chairs the commission.

Republican state Sen. Brad Farrin of Norridgewock says adding a penny a gallon to the fuel tax only raises $7 million a year.

“That’s not going to solve the problem when we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. And I think we have a mind that everything is on the table to talk about,” he says.