Second gas tax increase passes N.H. House

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March 31, 2013

New Hampshire

By Phil Sletten

CONCORD, New Hampshire: The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a 12 cent increase in the gasoline tax this week. The tax, which would be phased in over three years for gasoline and six years for diesel, would raise the total state tax per gallon from 18 cents to 30 cents. The state gasoline tax was last adjusted in 1991, when it was raised to the current 18-cent level.[1]

The final vote, after two hours of debate, stood at 206-158 in favor of the tax increase. This vote comes after a vote in early March on a 15 cent gas tax increase that attracted 207 votes in support and 163 against.[1] Supporters, including bill sponsor and Public Works and Highways Committee Chair David Campbell (D), had hoped that a smaller gas tax increase would attract substantially more support.[2][3] Both house votes were largely along party lines, with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans in opposition.[1]

Opponents, including Representatives John Burt (R) and Al Baldasaro (R), noted that the gas tax was regressive and places the heaviest relative burden on the poor.[1] Others, including Representatives Leon Rideout (R) and Andrew Renzullo (R), sought to remind Democrats of their past electoral losses after tax increases and highlight the threat that a gasoline tax increase could impose on their re-election chances.[3]

Senator Chuck Morse (R), the lead budget writer for the majority-holding Senate Republicans, has called the gasoline tax increase "dead on arrival" in that chamber. However, a gasoline tax increase may become a part of the House budget proposal, making the tax harder for Senate Republicans to extract.[4] Kevin Landrigan, statehouse and political reporter for The Nashua Telegraph, suggests that the gasoline tax may be part of a bargaining deal with the Senate that could also include expanded gambling.[5] WMUR-TV political reporter James Pindell did not indicate that he saw any chance of a gasoline tax increase in the Senate after passage of the 12-cent tax.[6]

According to a report from The American Society of Civil Engineers, New Hampshire's overall infrastructure performs slightly better than infrastructure on average nationwide.[7] However, a transportation trade organization reports that New Hampshire drivers spend $323 on average annually on car repairs due to bad road conditions, and New Hampshire's rural roads are the ninth worst in the nation.[8] New Hampshire is also in the midst of a major highway expansion in the southeastern part of the state.[9] Gas tax hike sponsor Representative Campbell expressed concern that if new revenue is not added to the highway trust fund, that project will not be completed.[2]

The Senate supports using money from expanded gambling revenues to support highway construction. The House, with some exceptions, is largely against expanded gambling and will likely craft a proposed budget that does not include new casinos. Governor Maggie Hassan (D) supports the addition of one casino in the state.[10][11]

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References

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