On the day when Maine gas prices were higher than ever before, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage stood across the street from a Falmouth Citgo station and called for temporary cuts in state gas taxes and highway tolls to help residents through the current inflationary market.

“We need relief,” LePage said Tuesday during a stop in his campaign to seek a third nonconsecutive term. “People need to eat.”

LePage, who served two terms in the Blaine House from 2011 to 2019, said he wants at least a 50 percent cut in the state’s gas tax until the beginning of tourist season, and said he would be willing to consider cutting it even more after learning a Republican state lawmaker wants to suspend the tax altogether.

Mainers need to be able to get to work, LePage said, pointing at the gas pumps behind him that were dispensing regular unleaded for $4.09 a gallon. Statewide, however, Maine’s average price per gallon clocked in Tuesday at $4.192,  the highest on record, according to AAA.

LePage said he didn’t blame incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, his likely Democratic opponent in November, for the high price of gas, but noted that she had supported President Biden’s regulatory restrictions on oil production.

LePage also said Mills even floated the idea of raising gas taxes. When asked to elaborate, a campaign aide said that a commission that Mills had created had proposed using a gas tax increase to pay for building new electric vehicle charging stations in Maine.


A Mills aide said LePage was mischaracterizing both the report and the governor’s position. “The Mills administration does not support an increase in the gas tax,” spokesman Scott Ogden said.

Average regular gasoline prices in Maine have risen by roughly 51 cents per gallon within the past week, driven largely by fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to GasBuddy’s survey of 1,228 stations in Maine and its analysts. Heating fuel prices also have hit record levels.

But there is also an underlying foundation of state and federal taxes. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon; Maine’s state tax is 30 cents a gallon. For example: At $4.11 a gallon, it costs $61.65 to fill a car that takes 15 gallons. Eliminating the 30-cent state gas tax would cut the total cost by $4.50.

The state gas tax rate has remained unchanged since 2011, LePage’s first year as governor.

Last month, Democrats in Washington, D.C., called for a gas tax holiday, but the idea met with criticism about its impact on the nation’s network of roads and bridges. In Maine, Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, this week submitted an emergency, after-deadline bill to suspend the Maine gas tax for the rest of 2022.

The state highway fund gets about $230 million per year from the state fuel tax. It’s the primary funding source for Maine Department of Transportation operations, to pave and plow roads and fill potholes, as well as other road and bridge work.


Suspending the tax for nine months would gut that highway fund while saving the average Maine driver, who drives about 15,000 miles per year and gets about 25 miles per gallon, about $135, the Department of Transportation said. LePage’s proposal to roll back the gas tax by at least 50 percent until the beginning of tourist season would save that same driver about $22, the department said.

LePage said he’s worried more about people being able to afford to pay for gas, heat, electricity and food than the condition of Maine’s roads. He said Maine could always borrow the money lost to these cuts at today’s low interest rates to make up the difference if necessary.


LePage hopes to become the first person to serve a third nonconsecutive term in the Blaine House. He continues to criticize Mills on the economy, saying she is not doing enough to keep inflation at bay. On Tuesday, he noted Mainers are paying more for electricity, heat and groceries as well as gas.

LePage has panned Mills’ proposal to distribute half of Maine’s $1.2 billion surplus to residents in the form of $750 checks. He thinks Mills should eliminate the state income tax instead.

“Rising costs – whether at the pump, the grocery store, or elsewhere – are taking a toll on Maine people, and Gov. Mills is focused on delivering substantial and meaningful relief for them,” campaign spokeswoman Alexandra Raposo said. “That is why she is proposing … inflation relief checks.”

Mills formally announced her re-election plans Tuesday by video, and has been raising campaign funds. Both Mills and LePage face possible primary challengers in June, although fundraising totals suggest no challenger is running a statewide campaign yet.

The Mills-LePage campaign, however, is heating up. Just this week, the Maine Republican Party started booking $3.9 million worth of broadcast ads targeting the governor’s race in hopes of locking down the lowest rates and framing the political debate.

“Janet Mills remains panicked about losing her job, and this initial investment is the first step towards making that a reality,” party Chairwoman Demi Kouzounas said. “This reserve allows us to keep Gov. Mills on defense and Paul LePage on offense as we enter critical moments of the campaign.”

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