N.H. Senate kills bill that would let Concord raise money from car registrations

  • The Senate convenes at the State House in Concord on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Thursday, March 08, 2018

The New Hampshire Senate voted down legislation that would have allowed Concord’s city council to raise money through fees on vehicle registrations, as debate centered on questions of local control.

In a 14-10 party-line vote, senators moved to kill Senate Bill 587, which would have lowered a population threshold that currently prevents Concord from instituting the fee. Currently only New Hampshire cities with populations greater than 50,000 can take such an action; the legislation would lower that level to 40,000, just under Concord’s popuaton of about 43,000.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, was drafted at the request of the city, which is seeking to use revenue from the increased fees toward renovation efforts for its parking facilities. If the bill passed, a two-thirds vote by the Concord City Council would be required to approve the fee increase.

Feltes said he doesn’t personally agree with the decision to raise the fees, but noted that he thought it should be left up to the city. The point was shared by Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, who invoked an ancient Greek statesman.

“Pericles thought about it, but here in Concord, we can’t think about it,” D’Allesandro said. “We can’t let people make their decisions on their own.”

But Republicans took issue with the method proposed, arguing that Concord should attempt to raise money by raising taxes, not fees. Currently only Nashua and Manchester are large enough to make use of the law, RSA 261:154, and only Manchester does.

“This is a city which knows if it needs to raise money, has the ability to put it in the budget,” said Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican who owns the Draft Sports Bar & Grill in Concord. Sanborn said that in his capacity as a business owner in the city, he had heard unanimous disapproval of the potential fee raises from those he talked to.

“This isn’t a question as to whether or not the city of Concord has the right to raise its budget to spend more money,” he said. “This a question of whether or not the state of New Hampshire is going to give them the right to make an increased fee on every resident’s car.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)