Letter: Legislators, control your spending

Published: 2/13/2020 12:01:28 AM

According to federal statistics, New Hampshire collected $352.1 million in state fuel taxes and registration fees in 2017; $21.9 million of that was spent on mass transit and $35.3 million went to “general purposes.” A stunning $81 million was spent just to administer the tax collection. At 23%, it is by far the highest administration percentage in the country. The national average is just 3.8%.

All told, 39 cents of every highway tax dollar collected is diverted. Sixty-one cents on the dollar apparently isn’t enough to maintain roads so, now, along come two apparently well meaning but poorly informed legislators with dueling cockamamie bills to – you guessed it – increase highway taxes.

Rep. Peter Somssich, D-Portsmouth, the author of House Bill 1650, wants to impose a new surcharge on vehicles based on their weight and the distance they are driven.

Rep. Norman Major, R- Plaistow, the author of HB 478, wants to impose a new surcharge on the drivers of the most fuel-efficient cars, regardless of how far they’re driven. If HB 478 passes, a retiree who drives a Prius 500 miles a year will pay the same surcharge as a salesman who drives a Prius 15,000 miles.

Whoever analyzes these bills to determine their fiscal impact has declared both of them “indeterminable.” They don’t even know how much new revenue would be generated. You can’t make this stuff up.

In spite of the clear language of N.H. Constitution Article 6-a prohibiting diversion, the Highway Account has evolved into a covert surrogate for the a broad-based tax.

There should be no increases in highway taxes until there is a thorough, independent and impartial 60 Minutes-style audit of the Highway Account.

All diversion starts in the Legislature. Gentlemen, first control your spending.



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