An increase in Maine’s gasoline tax is overdue. The present rate has been in place since 2011, and the federal tax has been static since the 1990s. Given the ongoing phenomenon of low gas prices, coupled with the recovery from the long recession, it makes perfect sense to use this opportunity to raise the money to repair our roads and bridges.

As reported in this paper April 12, however, state Sen. Ron Collins of Wells apparently thinks he has found a way to raise the money for highway infrastructure without compromising his conservative values. With L.D. 1226, he proposes that the owners of hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles pay a fee of $250 to $350 when they register them. It is not a tax because it is a fee, and it is conveniently directed at those tree-hugging liberals with their gas-stingy cars, the ones who supposedly aren’t paying their fair share of road maintenance costs.

It is noteworthy that the state senator’s approach bears a striking resemblance to the one directed at homeowners who have installed solar panels. They, too, are accused of not paying their share of maintaining the electrical grid, and thus should not be entitled to the full benefits of net metering.

For Collins, those individuals and families in Maine who recognize the threats posed by global warming and climate change, and who have the courage to set an example and point the way to a renewable-energy future, should be penalized, rather than praised, for their actions.

Maine needs enlightened and forward-looking policies and programs for both renewable energy and transportation infrastructure. Mr. Collins’ ludicrous and punitive bill is hardly helpful to the important discussions needed in Augusta.

Joe Hardy