A bill on the move at the New Hampshire statehouse is likely to make truckers cringe.
Concern about how to fund road and bridge work spurred the state’s House to endorse legislation – HB644 – that would nearly double the state’s tax rate on the purchase of gas and diesel during the next few years.
House lawmakers voted 190-162 to advance a bill that would raise an estimated $111 million annually for the state highway fund by the time the 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax is increased by 15 cents. The tax is the main source of revenue for the struggling road budget.
If they continue on their current path, officials with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation say the agency is on track for a $1 billion shortfall in the state’s 10-year highway plan.
In an effort to eat into the funding gap, the bill would phase in the increases for gas by 5-cent increments each of the next three years until it reaches 33 cents per gallon in the spring of 2011.
For diesel, the increases would be phased in every other year, taking full effect in 2013.
The additional revenue would be dedicated for repairs and construction of roads and bridges throughout the state. Towns and cities are in line to receive a 12 percent share of the fuel tax – $15 million annually.
Supporters say if lawmakers don’t act now roads will only deteriorate further and become more expensive to fix later.
Opponents, including truckers in the state, say that with the numerous problems plaguing the industry, higher fuel taxes would only compound the issue.
Truck driver and OOIDA Life Member Mike Delisle of Nottingham, NH, said it’s not realistic to expect truckers to absorb the additional tax.
“Now is not the time. Companies are going out of business. ... That’s where we’re at up here. We’re just struggling,” Delisle told Land Line.
The House Ways and Means Committee will next review the bill. If it clears the committee, it would pass one final House vote before advancing to the Senate.
However, the likelihood of Gov. John Lynch approving a tax increase doesn’t appear to be favorable. The governor has opposed raising the tax in the past, and Lynch recently said he hasn’t changed his mind.
Instead, Lynch is pitching his road budget plan, which includes increasing tolls and adding $10 to vehicle registrations.
To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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