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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Legislative Round Up: Gas Tax Hike Approved

The State House Press Corps all report on yesterday's action in the House, raising the gas tax by 15-cents per gallon, and leaving the EZ Pass discount in place.

Tom Fahey in the Union Leader:
The measure, which passed 190-162, will raise an estimated $111 million a year for the state highway fund by the time the full 15-cent increase takes effect. Diesel fuel will see the same 15-cent increase, but the three hikes will be spread out until 2013 to ease the effect on truckers. The bill calls for the first five-cent increase to hit on July 1.

The House rejected, 181-161, a move to cap all E-ZPass bills at 33 uses per month, and cut in half the 30 percent discount that E-ZPass owners now enjoy.

Opponents of the bill, HB 670, said those who use the turnpikes most often should bear the highest cost of upkeep and improvements.

Lauren Dorgan in the Concord Monitor:
Bill sponsor David Campbell said that as the costs of construction have spiraled in recent years, the state has dramatically cut back on roadwork, from paving more than 500 miles a year in the mid-1990s to 260 miles this year out of the 4,300 miles of state roads. The bill, he said, would double the state's paving projects.

At the current rate, "you're not going to be repaving the roads, you're going to be rebuilding the roads at a much, much greater cost," said Campbell, a Nashua Democrat who is vice chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee. He added: "If we keep kicking this can down the road, eventually the can itself is going to disintegrate."

Kevin Landrigan in the Nashua Telegraph:
"This is the least painful, fairest and most complete way to solve the problem, not for just two years but for 10 years,'' said state Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, the sponsor of the gas increase measure.

But House Republican Leader Sherman Packard said any increase will hurt families struggling in this economy, and the bill would cost the average trucker up to $1,000 more a year.

"Now is not the time to hit the people who can barely afford to put gas in their car,'' Packard said.

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