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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gas Tax on the Horizon?

With gas prices dropping under $2 a gallon for the first time in over three years, maybe New Hampshire drivers are willing to pay higher gas taxes. Maybe not. But some lawmakers are turning to the gas pump to try to replenish a Highway Trust Fund depleted by spending on other agencies and drivers staying home this summer.

The Concord Monitor reports on two Representatives who see higher gas taxes as the only way to pay for roads:

Rep. David Campbell, who has chaired this year's committee to study the highway fund, has said he will sponsor a gas-tax-increase bill. He said he hasn't sorted out all the details - including how big a raise he'll support - because it's not clear how much federal aid the state will receive. But, he said, he's come to believe that cutting alone won't right the road budget.

"At some point you can't cut the highway fund any more," said Campbell, who is not related to the transportation commissioner. "Are you going to cut winter salt? Are you going to cut snowplowing? Are you going to cut paving?"

Campbell, a Nashua Democrat, said he has backing from both sides of the political aisle.

"It's something that I'm hopeful the leadership of both parties, in both parties, can get behind," he said. "If they don't, I want them, whoever they are, to answer for the consequences if we don't do it. Show me where we're going to cut."

Rep. Candace Bouchard, a Concord Democrat who chairs the Public Works and Highways Committee, said she will support Campbell's bill.

"I'm pretty hopeful that people will understand the need to maintain our transportation system," Bouchard said. "I think we need to make our argument and show everyone that we've done our homework."

New Hampshire drivers currently pay 38 cents per gallon in gas taxes, 19.4 cents to New Hampshire, and 18.4 cents to Washington.

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