By Rob Roper
The ink wasn’t dry on the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) memorandum of understanding before Gov. Chris Sununu (R-New Hampshire) declared it a “boondoggle” that his state would never support. That first domino fell hard, and now several others are teetering.
In Connecticut, Gov. Ted Lamont, a Democrat who has an approval rating of 24 percent and is already bleeding political capital over his plan to bring back tolls on interstate highways, wants absolutely nothing to do with some cockamamie gas tax. Said Lamont about TCI, “Raising that gas tax, frankly, is what other states — mainly Republican states — have done to pay for transportation. I think it’s 100% paid for by Connecticut residents and probably not the way the to go.”
In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills had been a strong supporter of TCI until word started to get out that increasing the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel was both regressive in nature and especially punitive to rural constituents. Maine, like Vermont, is almost entirely rural. So now feeling the heat, Mills is changing her tune. According to the Boston Globe, the Maine Democrat’s office said that “the challenges of climate and transportation issues for rural states like Maine are unique, and the state will be appropriately cautious when considering these issues.”
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Riamondo, a Democrat, is still on board with TCI, but that state’s speaker of the house, Nicholas Mattiello, is not so sure. According to the Providence Journal, he “effectively ruled out any tax increases proposed by fellow Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo last month, including the potential gas tax hike emanating from a regional climate initiative, saying it ‘will be looked at very skeptically.’”
And, here in Vermont during his State of the State speech last week, Gov. Phil Scott said, without naming TCI specifically, that “I simply cannot support proposals that will make things more expensive for [rural and low income Vermonters].” Scott has been vehemently opposed to any form of carbon tax since his first run for governor in 2016.
If New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island don’t participate in the TCI program, that would leave Massachusetts — whose governor, Charlie Baker, is probably TCI’s biggest booster — completely isolated. Baker himself is under increasing pressure by a growing, bi-partisan group of legislators who don’t like the regressive nature of the tax.