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Maine bill exempts commercial boats from fuel tax

A proposal in Maine to exempt commercial fishing boats from a 5 percent state fuel tax sailed through the legislature's taxation committee in mid-February.

The measure, known as LD 185, "An Act to Refund the Sales Tax Paid on Fuel Used in Commercial Fishing Vessels," would restore a benefit fishermen previously obtained through a now-defunct fuel rebate program, according to The Working Waterfront.

Officials estimate that the bill would cost the state $427,500 in lost revenue the first year, increasing to $570,000 annually after that.

On the plus side, Rep. Bruce MacDonald, the bill's sponsor, hopes it would lure fishing boats, currently refueling and fishing out of Massachusetts, back to their berths in Portland.

Some 20 large fishing vessels no longer land their fish in Portland, MacDonald said, and Portland Fish Exchange business has been cut in half. Massachusetts does not impose a fuel tax on commercial fishermen.

The bill has yet to be scheduled for a vote by the full legislature. It has been assigned "emergency" status, so it likely will come to a vote in the current session.

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