Governor Janet Mills (D) recently signed a new “Highway Fund” budget into law that creates what she called a “more sustainable source” of transportation funding by dedicating 40 percent of the 5.5 percent sales tax on vehicle purchases and 40 percent of sales and use taxes collected by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to infrastructure needs; a budget expected to generate more than $200 million for infrastructure repair per biennium.
[Above photo by the Maine DOT]
The last biennial budget signed by the Governor dedicated $135 million to the Maine Department of Transportation for capital projects and stipulated that the agency receive 20 percent of unappropriated surplus, which amounted to approximately $156 million – an unprecedented level of general fund support of nearly $300 million. Thanks to those investments, Maine did not have to bond last year for transportation funding for the first time in decades.
The funds will allow the Maine DOT to implement its three-year work plan, containing 302 bridge projects, 1,178 miles of preservation paving and more than 2,000 miles of light capital paving, 271 miles of highway construction and rehabilitation, and 264 highway safety and spot improvements.
“This compromise agreement builds on [our] record investment in Maine’s roads and bridges and advances our work to reduce borrowing, create a sustainable, long-term source of funding for infrastructure repair, and unlock nearly a billion dollars in matching Federal funding,” the governor said in a statement. “This bill is good policy, it’s fiscally responsible, and Maine people will benefit from it.”
“The need for sustainable, dedicated revenue for the Maine Department of Transportation capital program has been a persistent challenge for decades, making long-term planning very challenging,” added Maine DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note.
“This budget makes a huge stride toward fiscal sustainability for the Highway Fund,” he emphasized. “Transportation affects every Maine person every day, so this budget represents a real win for the safety, economic opportunity, and quality of life of all Maine people. I want to thank Gov. Mills for her steadfast support for transportation. I also want to thank the legislature – including the transportation, appropriations, and taxation committees – for making this historic achievement possible.”