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February 22. 2014 11:57PM

Gambling and gasoline: Highway head should butt out

New Hampshire highway head Christopher Clement may feel obliged to carry water for Gov. Maggie Hassan, but he does himself and New Hampshire motorists no favors by linking his call for a gasoline tax hike to Hassan's casino gambling push. In fact, it makes one question just how credible are Clement's claims.

Clement is a bright and engaging young man whose PowerPoint presentations on road funding needs and funding sources have gained some traction for his repeated calls for a gas tax increase.

But the proposed legislation would not only hike the tax, it would then avoid any further legislative votes by "indexing'' the tax to a consumer price index.

Bypassing the people's representatives on basic taxation issues is an awful idea.

Meanwhile, Clement's claim that he needs even more new money than a gas tax hike would give him was challenged by state Senate President Chuck Morse, who noted the significant growth in Department of Transportation spending in recent years.

Morse noted that the DOT budget had gone up 20 percent a year over five years. That's just "not sustainable,'' he said.

Clement's reply was that a lot of this was "federal'' money and a lot for one-time projects.

OK, but that's still a great deal of public spending at a time when the nation has been and still is in recession. If Clement doesn't have those "one-time'' projects anymore, perhaps he doesn't need as big a work force.

The kicker, though, was Clement's butting into the debate over casino gambling.

At the gas tax hearing, state Sen. Bob Odell rightly tried to keep the focus on the gas tax. But Clement chimed in that, "We need both,'' the increase and a casino.

Since when is it the job of the head of the highway department to be lobbying for such revenue sources?


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