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Former N.H. House speaker raises gas tax alternative

The state shouldn’t raise the gas tax to pay for needed highway repairs, Rep. Bill O’Brien said in an email to his colleagues yesterday.

Instead, the Republican former House speaker announced he will introduce a floor amendment before a vote on the increase tomorrow. He said the amendment would eliminate expenditures from the highway fund for any purpose other than road and bridge projects.

“We shouldn’t be raising alarm among voters about deficient roads and bridges” and then spending that money for other purposes, O’Brien said in an interview following his announcement.

The state has more than 1,600 miles of road rated in poor condition. It has red-listed 140 state and 355 municipal bridges, meaning it deems them structurally deficient and recommends they be closed, repaired or replaced.

Several agencies besides the Department of Transportation receive money out of the highway fund. The Department of Safety receives the largest amount after transportation, close to $75 million of nearly $260 million appropriated annually. All the other agencies receive a combined $3 million.

Democratic Rep. David Campbell, sponsor of the increase, said O’Brien’s solution “plugs a hole in the state highway budget by creating a hole in the safety budget.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office said in a statement yesterday that cutting the Department of Safety out of highway funds would have a devastating effect on public safety and jeopardize more than 300 trooper positions paid for in part with that money.

The gas tax, 18 cents per gallon, is the lowest in the Northeast and hasn’t been raised since 1991. Campbell’s bill, which was approved unanimously by the bipartisan committee where it was introduced, would raise the tax ultimately 15 cents by 2017.

I agree with Jim. For years the gasoline tax has been used for support of state troopers but no one ever acknowledged the siphoning of money away from repairings roads and bridges. Is it too much to ask that we be honest with where the tax revenue is being used? I think not!!!!!

""Democratic Rep. David Campbell, sponsor of the increase, said O’Brien’s solution “plugs a hole in the state highway budget by creating a hole in the safety budget.” "" I see it the other way, by taking money out of the state highway budget and using it for the safety budget you plug a hole in the safety budget by creating a hole in the highway budget. How about using the money for what it was actually raised for. If there is another program you want (the safety program here) explain the program to the public and if they want to do it then raise the money for it. The lying politicians created the mess by syphoning money out of the departments it was raised for. Not much different than those panhandlers on the side of the roads!

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