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Senate kills House’s 12-cent gas tax increase

Senate president Peter Bragdon talks with colleagues during the gas tax debate, Thursday, May 23, 2013 in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Senate president Peter Bragdon talks with colleagues during the gas tax debate, Thursday, May 23, 2013 in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

A bipartisan majority of the state Senate yesterday rejected the idea of increasing New Hampshire’s gas tax, killing a 12-cent increase passed by the House with a parliamentary maneuver that also takes the issue off the table during budget negotiations next month with the House.

The 18-6 vote to “indefinitely postpone” a vote on the gas tax bill came a day after the House voted, 199-164, to kill a Senate bill that would have allowed a single casino in the state. Both expanded gambling and the gas tax had been touted as sources of revenue for improving the state’s roads and bridges.

“I think all of us know that we need to consider measures that would enhance our roads and bridge fund. Unfortunately, despite a bill that we sent to the House, which was rejected yesterday, our best attempts to do that have failed,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican. “I find it very difficult – at a time when the taxpayers are struggling, when small businesses are struggling – that we would increase the road toll from 18 cents to 30 cents a gallon.”

Rep. David Campbell, a Nashua Democrat and the prime sponsor of the gas tax bill, responded with harsh words for the Senate.

“Their vote today to indefinitely postpone (the gas tax bill) was, by the Senate majority’s own admission, retaliation for the gambling vote yesterday,” Campbell said. “The Senate majority has apparently forgotten or is ignoring that the voters threw out three of the last four House majorities and two of the last four Senate majorities because the voters want us to concentrate on jobs and the economy. Voters have rejected time and again extreme ideology and partisanship, and that is what this is.”

On March 27, the Democratic-led House voted, 206-158, to approve a 12-cent increase in the gas tax, which has stood at 18 cents per gallon since 1991. The House’s bill would have phased in the hike over three years for gasoline and six years for diesel fuel.

But yesterday, the Republican-led Senate voted, 18-6, to indefinitely postpone a vote on the House’s bill. Five Democrats joined all 13 Republicans in the majority; all six “no” votes came from Democrats.

The motion in effect kills the bill and blocks the Senate from considering any legislation dealing with the same subject matter for the remainder of the two-year legislative session.

Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, said that doesn’t mean the Senate couldn’t consider a different bill next year to deal with the state’s roads and bridges.

But, he said, yesterday’s vote means a gas tax hike can’t be part of the state budget. Discussing any increase in the committee of conference that will hammer out a compromise with the House, he said, “is futile, because the Senate cannot accept the report.”

(The House had included the gas tax hike in its budget. The Senate will vote on its own budget by June 6, and a committee of conference will then negotiate a final budget.)

Sen. Jim Rausch, a Derry Republican, said he and the public supported expanded gambling as a solution for the state’s infrastructure woes.

“In Salem, 81 percent of the people wanted it, and statewide, 63 percent of the people wanted it because it was a nontax solution to our roads, bridges and infrastructure. But the House had other ideas. It’s failed,” Rausch said. “I will support the indefinite (postponement) motion only because I have assurances that next year, not next session but next year, we can have legislation that is different but pertinent to the resolution and solutions of our infrastructure needs.”

Tobacco tax, fees

The House has also proposed raising the state’s tobacco tax, passing a bill March 20 on a 193-167 vote to raise the tax by 20 cents. The Senate rejected that bill yesterday on a 13-11 vote that broke along party lines.

New Hampshire’s tobacco tax now stands at $1.68 per pack. It will go up 10 cents automatically later this year, reversing a cut made two years ago.

In addition to the bill killed yesterday, the House, in its budget, proposed raising the tax by 30 cents, to $1.98 a pack. That hike could be discussed as part of budget negotiations next month.

The Senate did agree yesterday with the House to raise a state fee on heating oil.

The 1-cent per gallon fee goes into a discharge cleanup fund. A bill to raise it by a quarter-cent, to 1.25 cents per gallon, passed the House on March 27 by a 194-156 vote and passed the Senate yesterday on a voice vote after minimal debate.

And on another voice vote, the Senate approved a House bill that repeals a future reduction in boat registration fees, which were set to go into effect in 2015.

Both bills now go to Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat.

(Annmarie Timmins contributed to this report. Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments21

I amazed the legislators cannot get on the same page. They should be ashamed of themselves for their reckless and childish behaviors. The fact is state revenue has to come from somewhere. While we enjoy the benefit of no income tax we are burdened by property taxes. Sales tax on gas or 'Sin Taxes' are the only opportunities and while any tax is a burden, consumers adjust their spending accordingly and we move on.

We all seem to forget how much money is spent from out of staters on these things here in NH. That is revenue. There are quite a few studies done on state by state taxes. Be it on Gas, or Cigs, etc. Folks from MA and ME come here and buy booze, cigs and gas. ME is at 31.5 for gas. They also have a bottle tax. Ranked 16th highest tax state. NH is ranked 41. The border towns are where the populations have grown. Maine is also losing money in their retail outlets. Raise the taxes and become MA & Maine. You will actually lose revenue.

Maine is not a state to emulate. They have some pretty steep taxes and they are not doing well financially. They have a good size budget shortfall, and are considering 38% cuts across the board. Maine is always 5 or 6 on the list of the states that have high taxes. Higher unemployment than NH also.

Thank-you to the Bi-partisanship in the NH Senate. The taxing partisan hacks that voted for this tax on the working people should be voted out of office.

Way to work together boys and girls! The House kills the casino bill, so the Senate kills the gas tax bill. Bravo!

“The Senate majority has apparently forgotten or is ignoring that the voters threw out three of the last four House majorities and two of the last four Senate majorities because the voters want us to concentrate on jobs and the economy." Raising the tax on gas is not concentrating on jobs and the economy.

It is when companies do not want to come to NH because they can't move their product due to broken bridges and clogged highways.

Is there respected study that supports that statement?

My guess is no. Just bold faced liberal lying talking points. Please name a major bridge or road that is down due to disrepair.

In 2011, NH DOT red-listed 493 state and municipal bridges. The following year, it closed 11 municipal bridges: Hurlburt Road (Dalton), Old Mill Lane (Hollinsford), Nute Road (Malbury), Church Street (Belmont), Bog Road (Hillsborough), Collins Street (Ashland), Church Road (Unity), Hill Road (Alstead), Woodward Hill Road (Francestown), Second NH Turnpike (Francestown), and Manchester Road (Amherst). $680 million is needed to replace or rehabilitate the red-listed bridges in NH. This information comes from NH DOT Clement's legislative presentation dated January 10, 2013. If you attended the hearings before the House Public Works Committee earlier this spring, you might recall an interesting testimony from a trucking company (I can't recall the name) that is spending more on fuel due to the need to re-route its trucks because of weight restrictions on poor condition roads and bridges. The trucking company owner who presented that argument suggested he'd actually spend less on fuel if his trucks could use more direct routes thanks to more gas tax revenue. Finally, remember that other factors beside state taxes more profoundly influence the price at the pump. High international demand for a finite resource is a major one. A gas station's proximity to refineries, distribution centers, and competition (i.e. other gas stations) also matter.

The bridge that just fell in Washington, the one in Minneapolis. Someone must know how many red listed bridges we have in NH.

YEP...I knew someone would bring up the Minneapolis Bridge. The one that collapsed because of the design flaw, and now the one in Washington, which a semi took out critical structural elements. Read the actual news for crying out loud.

Imagine...a state government building a bridge that accommodates oversized loads. Is it the rep's desire to make haulers pay more in fuel for detouring trucks through hundreds, if not thousands of miles, because of load limits? If so, who is profiting/lining legislator's pockets? Hopefully the new VT state gas tax will fix the needs of increased development, which contribute to overflowing culverts/rivers/streams. They realize their infrastructure is not up to current standards, which will, unfortunately, take years of construction to update. Research past storms impacting Vermont and the help NH provided them. At least there are jobs to be had in that state. Sadly, NH is beyond that point and is just waiting for the lawsuits, costing taxpayers millions in court costs.

Well, Maines gas tax is $.30...Are our neighbors to the north fairing any better?? Nope...I read they want the gas tax raised even higher.

Maine is a much larger state in size but their population and economy is roughly equal to NH's. In other words, they have a lot more roads and bridges to support per capita. And many states are planning on raising their gas taxes as the federal tax hash't been raised since 1993.

That is true X er. They also have a sales and income tax.

Rebuilding our infrastructure would provide a huge shot in the arm for our economy. We're talking thousands of jobs from general contractors, paving contractors, trucking, concrete suppliers, aggregate suppliers, steel shops, surveyors etc, etc.

Meanwhile gas prices continue to rise and who profits from that? Where's the outrage?

every study that anyone can easily research shows that Government seizes substantially more money than the oil company average profit of 09.9 cents per gallon

I just searched 5 that proves you're wrong.

Climber, not sure what sources you are referring to but check out this site:

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