A Maine bill to increase fuel excise taxes by seven cents a gallon to pay for road and bridge repairs offers no tangible benefits to the state’s general aviation airports, AOPA said after a legislative hearing.
Legislative Document 1149, sponsored by Rep. Andrew McLean (D-Gorham), would increase the excise tax beginning Oct. 1 from 29.5 cents per gallon to 36.5 cents per gallon on fuels used by internal combustion engines. The excise tax on jet fuel would remain at 3.4 cents per gallon.
The excise tax increase plan is one of several means that have been offered to fund repairs to Maine's "deteriorating infrastructure" and fill a projected gap between planned expenditures and expected revenue.
“Maine needs a defined program to reinvest excise tax revenues into its public-use airports before it should raise the tax on aviation fuels,” said AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins, who submitted testimony at the Joint Committee on Transportation’s hearing in Augusta.
AOPA generally supports the notion of paying for infrastructure repairs with revenue from aviation fuel taxes—but Maine “lacks a defined program that would result in any aviation system infrastructure improvements except at two state-owned airports in Augusta and Deblois,” he said. “Any effort to increase the fuel tax is simply not justifiable as long as those burdened by the tax increase will see no tangible benefit.”
Of the 72 public-use airports in Maine, about 40 are inspected by a very small staff, Collins said, adding that the state’s inspectors “do a great job when one considers that other New England states with vastly fewer airports, employ five times as much staff to oversee them.”