New Hampshire House approves 15-cent fuel tax increase

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/13/2013

A plan to nearly double fuel taxes in New Hampshire to pay for road and bridge work got a boost in recent days. One project that would benefit is widening work on Interstate 93.

House lawmakers voted 207-163 to advance a bill for further committee consideration that would increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 15 cents over four years for motorists and six years for truck drivers.

The state’s 18-cent-per-gallon tax has not increased since 1991.

Advocates say that something needs to be done to address a funding shortfall that state transportation officials put at $1.3 billion during the next decade.

“Our roads and bridges are in a state of steep decline,” Rep. Andy White, D-Lebanon, said in a news release. “The problem needs money to fix, and that money should come from the users of roads and bridges.”

The 10-year, $980 million bill would protect the funds raised during the next decade from being used for anything other than state and local roads and bridges.

HB617 is scheduled to be considered on Thursday, March 14, in the House Ways and Means Committee. If approved, it would head back to the House floor for a final chamber vote. It would then head to the Senate.

An alternative to the fuel tax increase is also on the move at the statehouse. SB152 would tap proceeds from legalizing video slot machines and table games to help pay for transportation projects.

Gov. Maggie Hassan recently testified in front of the Senate Ways and Means Committee supporting the bill requiring a casino operator to pay $80 million for a 10-year license. The Democratic governor included casino revenue in her proposed budget.

The panel voted 4-1 to advance the casino bill to the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the House.

The fuel tax increase is far from a sure bet to win legislative approval. State Republicans have voiced concern about increasing taxes in a tough economy.

House Republican Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett said that while he understands that roads and bridges need attention he wants to avoid dipping into consumers’ pockets to fill funding needs.

“Our economy is still fragile and taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of New Hampshire consumers is not the solution to the problem,” Chandler stated.

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

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