DOT chief details highway funding worries; Senate president opposes gas tax hike
The state's highway fund receives about $120 million a year from the gas tax and about $105 million to $110 million from vehicle registrations.
Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said Tuesday night the DOT cannot keep asking for more money.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, Senate Transportation Committee chairman, will be introduced in the 2014 session to raise the gas tax 4.5 cents, which would raise $32 million a year for highways.
"I continue to oppose a gas tax increase," he said. "It hurts the people who can least afford it."
Clement told the House Public Works and Highways Committee in fiscal year 2016, the state's 13 bridge maintenance crews, which repair the majority of the state's red-listed bridges, would have to be reduced to seven.
Patrick McKenna, the department's Director of Finance, said the 300-member engineering staff, which designs and inspects federal projects, will be cut in half.
Over the past few years, the state's highway fund has been boosted from the "sale" of the I-95 high level bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine to the Turnpike system, which has about $30 million a year.
He said ideally the state should be paving 500 miles of roads a year so that all the state's roads will be repaved every 10 years, but instead about 300 miles of roads are repaved a year, making it a 15-year cycle.
"We've been doing less with less," Clement said.
Although he assumes the federal highway department will provide the $150 million a year it currently provides, Clement said, that is uncertain. In the past, the authorization would be for multiple years so the state could depend on the money, but now the federal budget is funded on continuing resolutions on a year-to-year basis.
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