New Hampshire bill to boost road funding advances; fuel tax hike fails

| 2/12/2008

A New Hampshire House panel has approved a bill that is intended to help generate revenue for transportation. Another effort to boost fuel tax rates, however, has died.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 15-3 to advance a bill that would route title fees from the state’s general fund into the highway fund. A provision to also route motor vehicle fines from the general fund into the highway fund, however, was removed in committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, the measure – HB1618 – has moved to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

The fiscal analysis for the bill reports that directing the title fees into the highway fund would amount to as much as $13 million for roads and bridges. The reallocation would begin July 1, 2009.

Meanwhile, another bill hit a dead end that sought to increase the state’s tax rate applied to fuel purchases by 6 cents. Sponsored by Rep. Frederick King, R-Colebrook, the measure – HB1445 – would have increased the per-gallon tax on diesel and gas from 18 cents to 24 cents.

The fiscal analysis for the bill reports the increase would result in an additional $50 million each year for road and bridge work throughout the state. Local communities would get $6 million.

Advocates for higher fuel taxes say changes are needed because New Hampshire doesn’t have enough money rolling in to pay for work included in the state’s 10-year plan.

The House Public Works and Highways Committee voted 9-4 to recommend killing the bill. The vote followed comments from Gov. John Lynch that he would prefer to borrow the money needed for transportation projects.

Others said that legislators should first look at making sure more of the highway fund is used for roads.

One other bill still in committee would prohibit retail sellers of diesel, gas and home heating oil from using fractional-cent pricing. Sponsored by Rep. Gary Daniels, R-Milford, the measure – HB1249 – would require the price of fuel to be rounded up or down to the nearest whole cent.

The bill is in the House Commerce Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor