N.H. Senate committee amends gas tax bill to include future repeal
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday endorsed a bill to increase the gas tax, but only after changing it to allow for repeal of the law once a bond for the widening of Interstate 93 is paid off.
This new version of the bill will go to the Senate floor Thursday. Senators voted 14-9 in support of the previous version of the bill, with one Democrat voting against it and four Republicans voting for it.
Under the bill, the state’s gas tax would go up roughly 4 cents in 2015, which would bring in about $32 million in new annual revenue for the state Department of Transportation. Previous versions of the measure didn’t specify what projects it would go toward, although the department made it clear it would use the money for repaving roads and fixing deteriorating bridges. Sen. Nancy Stiles, a Hampton Republican, introduced an amendment yesterday that designates exactly where that money would go and adds a provision that will repeal the increase in 20 years. The committee approved the amendment 4-1.
In 2015, $12 million would go toward road rehabilitation – distributed equally among the state’s six highway districts, $13.2 million would go to resurfacing programs and the rest would go toward state bridge aid.
Separate from the gas tax increase, the amendment allows the state to issue $200 million in bonds for widening I-93 from Salem to Manchester. Starting in 2016, some of the money from the increase would go toward bond payments, and the rest would be split among road rehabilitation and resurfacing, and bridge aid. In 2017, some money would go to bridge aid, some money would go to bond payments and the rest would go into the state’s highway bridge and betterment account.
The 4-cent increase would be repealed when the bond is paid in full or in 20 years after issuing the bonds, whichever comes first.
Finally, Stiles’s amendment establishes a committee to “study the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Transportation.” During hearings on the bill, Senate President Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican, pointed to the department’s ever increasing budget and questioned whether it is using its money appropriately.
Sen. Peter Bradgon, a Milford Republican, introduced another amendment that would eliminate the road toll at Exit 12 on the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack. The Finance Committee approved the amendment 3-2.
The bill will be sent to the House after the Senate votes Thursday.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)