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My Turn: Increasing the gas tax is the wrong solution

Millions of Americans have opted to drive smaller cars that conserve energy. The days of huge gas-guzzling barges are largely a distant memory. Cars have become lighter and engines have become more efficient to comply with stricter EPA emissions and higher miles-per-gallon mandates. All of this is good news for the planet and for our pocketbooks.

Now comes a chorus of zealous legislators, both state and federal, calling for a dramatic increase in fuel taxes to the tune of a combined fuel tax increase of over 30 cents a gallon to pay for highway projects. They sing a siren song of how our transportation infrastructure is crumbling. A gloomy narrative of unsafe bridges, roads needing extensive repair and wider interstate highways and prophesies of an Armageddon of death and destruction will happen unless they saddle the already overtaxed average Joe with more and more taxes to help pay for these projects. To add insult to injury, an even crueler plan is being cooked up to assess all drivers on the amount of miles that they drive to compensate for the loss of state and federal revenue from the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles. No good deed goes unpunished.

The New Hampshire economy is fragile, and saddling those who can least afford another hefty tax increase is not the best way to solve the infrastructure problems. There is currently enough New Hampshire fuel tax revenue to maintain much of our highway program. The rub is in the traffic corridor bordering Massachusetts. These are bedroom communities for New Hampshire residents who commute to work in Massachusetts for higher-paying jobs. The state Department of Transportation solution to the dramatic increase in traffic congestion in that region is to widen the interstate highways. This will cost a huge amount of money – hence the increase in fuel taxes to pay for it.

A better way to pay for it could be accomplished with more toll stations, toll increases or allowing alternative private toll roads to be built.

This gets the families living in Coos County off the hook for paying for expensive road projects that they may never use. It is grossly unfair to burden those in the most economically vulnerable part of our state with tax increases that only benefit those who are already doing very well in the lower part of the state.

This increased tax burden will fall most heavily on poor and middle-class families all over the state.

More bus and a light-rail service to Boston, along with more park-and-ride areas and carpooling, are simple and cost-effective solutions. “Crying wolf” only serves a lobby of politically well-connected fat cats who will reap million in profits from expensive highway projects.

(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)

Legacy Comments6

And then there is this...Hey, I like paths just as much as the next person...funding them with highway grants?? Not so much.....

The majority of the highway and bridge funding concerns are a result of the dept of safety ie state police consuming nearly 50 percent of federal highway monies which are supposedly for highway construction and maintenance. There are currently 350 red listed bridges in nh, I am not interested in the drive fast and don't look back approach to bridge safety whether I pass over it once a day or once in a lifetime. a 2 cents per gallon tax would eliminate this problem in short order. One detour around the sewalls falls bridge would be the equivalent annual amount of fuel cost in a 2 cent per gallon taxation, this is not too much of burden to ask.

You made a verifiable claim, which doesn't verify, James.

I agree with you that those big, V-8, 4WD trucks driving 90MPH, riding your bumper as they speed by with no payload are very, very silly. However, it is not your business nor my business to decide what someone might or might not "need". At registration time, owners of these vehicles DO pay more. Fuel meters? Not in a free society. Your toll comments are valid, we could double them and that would make sense, beyond that we need a toll plaza on the border in Salem. I do agree with your bridge comment as well, that is right on the mark. But also, I think that kind of thing applies to many things, including Obamacare. People ought to pay their own way.

The days of huge, gas guzzling barges are no distant memory. 1000s of people commute in full sized trucks and SUVs they don't need, at speeds of 80-85MPH routinely. Big V8 4WD trucks that have never hauled a payload a year after they bought it, trucks with bed covers on them. The excuse is that they have the right. They can't fit in to a small car. Always an excuse. I think we should put big, pricey taxes on vehicles like these, unless the person needs it to make a living. The more fuel your vehicle guzzles, the more you pay at registration time. It wouldn't be difficult to phase in fuel meters that tally every drop you burn and tax accordingly. If my car gets 35 MPG and I drive 30k a year, I should pay more fuel taxes than some idiot who drives a gas guzzling tank that gets 12 MPG and "only" drives 15k a year? Do the math, I think not. Double our tolls, and we'd still have the lowest tolls in New England. Lastly, using your flawed logic, if a bridge in West Stewartstown needs replacing, it should be up to the people of the north country to pay all of the taxes for it, because it's unlikely I am ever going to use that bridge. The economically fragile community you cite should be burdened with the bills for their roadways.

it is no longer astonishing that a liberal progressive solution to everything is MORE TAXES

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