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Money would go to repairing roads; Senate committee approves hike
CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s gas tax could be on the rise. A 4 cent increase per gallon could take effect this summer.
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the increase Tuesday.
Department of Transportation officials said 51 miles of state roads slip from what it deems fair condition to poor condition every year and the funding is badly needed. Opponents said increasing the gas tax will hurt more than it helps.
The state’s gas tax has held steady at 18 cents per gallon for a long time.
“We had a 4-1 vote, which I think was important, and it’s necessary because of the condition of the roads and bridges and infrastructure in the state of New Hampshire,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.
The increase would start in July and bring in an added $32 million a year to pay for road repairs.
“We need our infrastructure. It’s important for our citizens and important for our business community,” said Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry. “So, this was my effort to have a reasonable increase to partially restore what we’ve lost over time.”
Rausch said he hoped to boost transportation funding through expanded gambling, but increasing the gas tax was Plan B.
“I think you have to do the math, and I keep saying if you drive 10,000 miles and you get 25 miles to the gallon, it’ll cost you $16 a year,” Rausch said. “You hit a pothole, it’s going to cost you a lot more than $16 to fix a tire, a rim, shock absorbers, etc.”
The lone vote against the increase came from Senate President Chuck Morse.
“This tax will not produce what people think it will produce to fix roads in the state of New Hampshire,” said Morse, a Republican.
Morse said he is worried about people who pay the gas tax.
Lauren Gagne of Concord said the more she drives, the less she likes the idea of more expensive fuel.
“Now, I travel to Manchester because most of my family’s there and I’m helping my grandmother,” Gagne said. “So, I have to travel there a lot and there’s the tolls, and there’s this stuff.”
Others said the tax would be just a drop in their tank.
“I think it’s a small price to pay for roads that work and jobs for people,” said Dan Berry of Concord.
Given the Republican sponsors with their names already on the bill, it would appear it has the votes to pass the Senate, but there are no guarantees. Gov. Maggie Hassan has indicated if the bill has bipartisan support, she will sign it.