House committees approve gas tax increase
Tuesday the Joint House Public Works and Highways, and Ways and Means committees voted 26-11 to approve Senate Bill 367 after three Republican attempts to change the bill were defeated on close votes.
Campbell said in the 23 years since the last increase, the price of goods needed for highways and bridges such as asphalt and steel has increased tremendously.
“Before jumping into one of the largest tax increases in recent history, we need to take a hard look at the intricacies of this bill and the system by which the revenue would be used,” said House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett. “Republicans offered reasonable amendments to fix some of our concerns, but none were adopted.”
“If the Legislature can’t even follow a reasonable standing law regarding highway funds, how can people have any confidence in the laws we pass? People don’t have enough faith the money will go were we say it will go,” Chandler said.
But Campbell said most of the state will not see one penny of the money for expansion, noting the state’s 10-year highway plan already allocates $50 million for the expansion.
Republicans proposed removing the provision to eliminate the Exit 12 ramp toll on the F.E. Everett Turnpike in Merrimack. The ramp toll elimination is a key element for some senators including former Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, who opposed the bill.
When that amendment failed on a 16-15 vote, Graham proposed turning Continental Boulevard, which the state maintains, to the town of Merrimack. That amendment failed on an 18-17 vote.
After the vote, Robert Sculley, president of the NH Transport Association, which opposed the bill said, “This is just the beginning. You heard the chair, there is no money for operations,” referring to the Department of Transportation, which faces major layoffs in the future without more money.
Under the proposal, the increase would be repealed after $200 million in bonds are paid off over 16 to 20 years.
The agreement allows the state to secure about $80 million in Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds or GARVEE bonds to replace the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge in Portsmouth, and use $40 million in federal funds earmarked for that project to help pay for the I-93 expansion.
The bill has the support of business groups, the construction industry and the NH Municipal Association.
If the bill passes unchanged it will go to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has said she will sign it.