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Editorial: How best to pay for much needed roadwork?

Any weekend now, it will happen again. Interstate 93 as it passes through Concord will turn into a near-parking lot as leaf peepers and other visitors roll slowly through the capital’s clogged main artery. Widening the interstate from its intersection with Interstate 89 to Exit 16 in East Concord will, at least for some period of years, alleviate the congestion, albeit by moving it north like a mouse through a snake.

A lack of funding, however, stands in the way of the I-93 widening. The Department of Transportation covers most of the state’s share of road and bridge improvements with revenue from the gas tax, which, because vehicles continue to become more fuel efficient, has been declining year after year. Vehicles owners are also turning to alternative fuels like biodiesel, liquid natural gas and electricity, none of which the state now taxes. Those fuels should be taxed, when used to power vehicles, although finding a fair method of collecting revenue from the owners of electric vehicles might not prove easy.

Lawmakers have been historically averse to raising the gas tax, something that should, of course, be done. But adding surcharges to onerous state and local vehicle registration fees should not be an alternative. The fee, which can amount to $400 or $500 for a non-luxury car, is already burdensome for many vehicle owners. That said, every owner of every motorized vehicle should pay his or her fair share toward the cost of road improvements and maintenance.

Some states are exploring the possibility of taxing vehicles per miles traveled, which makes sense if the weight of the vehicle is part of the equation. A Smart Car, at 1,609 pounds, weighs a little less than one Ford Fusion electric car or two Harley-Davison Electra Glide Classics. Such lightweight vehicles impose far less wear and tear on roads than, for example, one Lincoln Navigator SUV at just under 6,000 pounds, let alone big trucks and other weighty conveyances.

Imposing a mileage-based tax does require a sacrifice of privacy that some people find objectionable. Such a tax is not likely to be adopted in New Hampshire any time soon, if ever. A tax on alternative fuels does not present that problem and should be the next step lawmakers take toward raising a small part of the revenue required to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

Legacy Comments13

Hmmmm, I thought that the stimulus paid for the highway improvement????? Where did that money go??????

What is not mentioned that under John Lynch's leadership and now Maggie Hassan, the highway fund was raided to pay part of the state police budget. It happens just about every budget cycle. It equals about $25m to $32m each year. There is a lot of roads and bridges that can be repaired with this money. Simple solution, don't enact a new tax, but use the existing tax money for the purpose it was intended.

And why do you think they would do that? Because they want roads and bridges to decay? When this state was 3/4 of a million people maybe it worked not to have any taxes but property taxes but it is not working now. More people have moved to this state that want all the good things that other people before them paid for but now they don't want to pay for the upkeep of those things. All they do is live here without contributing anything but complaints. Also I remember the Repubs didn't want a 10cent gas tax because it would hurt the "NH advantage" Whenever I see the national average for gas NH is always higher and that is without the extra 10cents. How is that those "liberal" states with all their taxes still have lower gas prices than we do?

Not sure where you are getting your info about gas prices being cheaper in liberal states Tillie, but you are incorrect. It is just the opposite. NH-3.61 NY 3.83 RI 3.71 MA 3.66 CT 3.90 ME 3.71 CA 3.93 VT 3.70 Info obtained from Gas Buddy site

While reading this editorial, it struck me that this subject, like some other editorial subjects, is one that is near and dear to the Monitor itself. I have read quite a bit in the Monitor about how important it is that the Sewalls Falls bridge be replaced or upgraded. Does that have anything to do with the Monitor's location just on the other side of the bridge or is that just a coincidence? With I-93 and a rail bed on the Monitor's other side, any widening of the highway will put it pretty close. I guess a state transportation corridor for the underground transmission of power next to rail beds and interstate highways wouldn't hold much appeal to someone in that location no matter how beneficial it would be to the rest of NH. It's the only good reason I can imagine for the Monitor's support of no. pass towers over the objections of everyone else in NH. Maybe it wasn't the best business decision to move so far away from the city proper to a place with such limitations but that shouldn't affect the quality or content of the information people rely on. If the Monitor is willing to throw Concord and the rest of the state under the bus because it is in it's own best interest, that is understandable - sad, but at least understandable because supporting huge towers instead of underground just doesn't make any sense at all.

Does that also apply to school funding Jim? Those who have no kids at school should pay less or nothing? How about those of us that do not use any govt programs, should we have lower taxes? The big car vs small car line of thinking is targeting folks who have to use a truck for work. Is that fair?

Heck if I could fit a deer into back of a Prius, I'd get one.

LOL. You drive a Prius? It must have a sun roof, otherwise, how do you fit in it. You are one big boy Hunter.....the biggest scam is the smart gets 30 mpg but even the Prius gets more. I guess that you have a challenge ahead, fitting a deer into a Smart car....LOL....good one Hunter.

RabbitNH - Would it apply to schools, yes in part. Is it fair that a person that has 5 children in the system pay exactly the same as the person that has none. I think a little "premium" is fine for each child after say 2..... As far as the truck, if you "have to" drive a truck then you are probably the owner of the business or are a subcontractor of some form. Those cost are tax deductible- gas, tolls, the truck...... I'm surprised that if it bothers a person to pay taxes that they never get the use of, why are they happy to build a road for someone when they never drive on it and don’t ask that person to pay more. I'm just saying that people that use a product more, should expect to pay a little more.

A far wiser way to go is the "toll booth", the more one uses the road the more one pays. I would also go for an additional "weight tax", the heavier the vehicle the additional added tax. Why, because those heavy vehicles do far more damage to the roadbed. Businesses constantly complain they want better roads and at the same time complain they want to pay less taxes. Everyone shares in the tax burden, but those that use a service should expect to pay more than those that don't.

The only solution democrats ever ever offer to any perceived problem their imaginations create is to TAX MORE. Time to throw out democrats and have a top to bottom machete cut of all the democrat created unnecessary programs.

And the only solution ever referred by conservatives is the theory that reduced spending will solve all fiscal probems. Even in the face of continual, ongoing inflation of everything. Furthermore, I would hardly label taking care of roads and bridges an " unnecessary program."

You are correct Sail, they dream up "what if's" if anyone was ever hurt by anything and blow it way out of proportion and propose ways to make sure that it never happens again and "by the way this will cost you......". They are so blind to their own stupidity.

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