AUGUSTA — The Maine House voted Tuesday to uphold Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that could have meant $2 increases in vehicle registration and driver license fees if towns and cities had opted to charge more.

After a brief debate, representatives voted 88-55 to override the veto issued by the governor on Friday. The tally was shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override.

The vetoed bill, L.D. 405, would have given municipalities the option of increasing the motor vehicle licensing and registration service fees they collect and keep. Fees for the renewal of a license or registration could have increased from $3 to $5, and the fee for a new license or registration could have risen from $4 to $6.

“Here we are again, voting on another tax increase,” House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport said before the vote, adding that the increase would have imposed another levy on Mainers at a time they can least afford it. “I think the governor was right” in vetoing the bill, he said.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford, said the measure would have helped cities and towns cover the cost of that basic duty at a time they are feeling increased financial pressure.

“We are looking for some avenue to increase revenue,” said Casavant, who is also Biddeford mayor. Casavant stressed that the bill was a local option, not a mandatory increase.

Biddeford is among the 54 Maine towns and cities that have sent resolutions to the Legislature opposing the governor’s proposed budget, saying it imposes more pressure on local property taxpayers.

In his veto message, LePage said the problems municipalities face are not the result of government taking money from residents, but rather a poor environment for business to create jobs and the state’s “significant tax burden.”

“Additionally, I question why the Legislature seems so focused on passing bills without significant support, especially when they are likely to receive a veto on my desk,” LePage said.

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