The New Hampshire House has given its approval to a roughly $11.5 billion state budget after the Senate approved it. The budget includes higher vehicle registrations to bolster road funds.
Senate lawmakers passed the compromise budget by a vote of 13-11. The House followed suit by a margin of 201-183. The votes clear the way for it to advance to Gov. John Lynch, who has indicated he would sign it.
Legislators worked to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the state budget. When the dust settled, negotiators opted not to include expanded gambling and taxes on the wealthy and home refinances. Also axed was a plan to boost the state’s fuel tax rate by 15 cents.
Negotiators were able to reach agreement on who will foot the bill for road and bridge repairs throughout the state.
Despite talks during the past few months about boosting fuel taxes and toll rates to help plug a $40 million shortfall in the transportation budget, lawmakers agreed on hiking motor vehicle registration fees.
The plan calls for charging between $30 and $75 more in fees based on vehicle weights. Revenue would be directed for state and local roads.
The fee increases are contained in the trailer bill – HB2 – that accompanies the two-year state budget.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter, who unveiled the registration fee increase plan, said the graduated plan was fair because the more wear and tear a vehicle puts on a road the more they would have to pay, the Concord Monitor reported.
Lawmakers said they chose to include registration surcharges and abandon the pursuit of higher fuel taxes because the former was the least painful option for taxpayers. Previously, House lawmakers approved a 15-cent-per-gallon tax increase to be phased in over several years, but Gov. Lynch said he was opposed to that plan.
Without making changes, 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.
The registration fee increase would expire in two years. At that time, lawmakers would need to revisit the long-term funding options. Likely topics are expected to include expanding the use of toll money and the fuel tax.
To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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