New Hampshire lawmakers approve fuel tax increase

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, April 24, 2014

Truckers will soon pay a bit more in tax to the state of New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire House voted 193-141 to send a bill to the governor to increase the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax rate for the first time since 1991. Specifically, SB367 will increase the tax by 4.2 cents to 22.2 cents per gallon.

Senate lawmakers already approved the bill on a 14-9 vote.

Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, said he doesn’t view it as a fuel tax increase. He told a House panel during recent discussion that the bill “partially restores lost purchasing power ... for something that inflation has eroded away.”

The bill will raise an estimated $32 million annually – about $588 million over 20 years – for transportation work.

Funding to fix and maintain state and local highways and bridges will be increased for two years. Afterward, about half the proceeds would be used to pay off $200 million in borrowing to widen Interstate 93 from Salem to Manchester.

In addition, the bill authorizes the state Department of Transportation to end toll collection at Exit 12 on the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack.

The tax increase is slated to be repealed once bonds for the I-93 project are paid off in about 20 years.

The New Hampshire Motor Transport Association opposed the tax increase estimating it would cost truckers $750 more in annual expenses. Instead, NHMTA President Bob Sculley encouraged lawmakers to better prioritize existing revenues.

“I know there are some people who think we’re being totally unreasonable not supporting this bill, but fuel is our second-highest line item for cost,” Sculley said during a recent hearing on the bill. “It’s very problematic for us.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan said she will sign the bill into law. After the bill’s passage she released a statement that the tax increase represents an important step toward addressing the state’s transportation needs.

“I look forward to signing this bipartisan legislation into law so we can keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward by advancing critical road and bridge projects and finishing the long-overdue expansion of I-93,” Hassan wrote.

The increase is set to take effect July 1.

Another bill of note targets lead-footed travelers. The Senate voted to advance a bill to the House that would boost penalties for driving at least 100 mph.

SB246 calls for the worst speeders to face fines starting at $500 with loss of driving privileges for 60 days. Repeat offenders would face fines between $750 and $1,000 and license suspension from 60 days to one year.

Prosecutors could also seek jail time of up to one year.

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