Carriage Towne News
---- — State Budget
Governor Maggie Hassan submitted her state budget on February 14, 2013. It included an $80 million casino licensing fee and a 30 cent tobacco tax increase. Subsequently, a bill was introduced to increase the gas tax by 15 cents over four years.
According to the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, the yearly revenue from a single high-end casino could be from $53 to $100 million, Proponents tout the increase in state funds, jobs and tourism. Opponents fear adverse social issues and undo influence over the state legislature. Absent a casino of its own, gambling in Massachusetts will still effect those same social issues in New Hampshire but not provide the resources to contend with them. Regarding a deleterious influence upon the NH Legislature, are we to believe that outside campaign PAC’s and vested interests have no effect on state politics?
Some think that gaming will have a negative effect upon New Hampshire’s quality of life. Presently, that quality of life finds NH second only to New Jersey in property taxation, perpetuates the highest in-state college tuition in the country and offers the highest student debt in the land.
An increase in the cigarette tax of 30 cents is expected to generate $30 million in revenue. An increase in the tax on cigarettes from $1.68 to $1.98 will bring the average cost of a pack in New Hampshire to $6.17. The respective costs in states bordering NH are: Maine-$6.97, Vermont-$7.60 and Massachusetts-$8.49. Our neighbors will flock to New Hampshire for this bargain price.
The gas tax has not increased since 1991 and according to the New Hampshire Business Review, New Hampshire’s 19.6 cent gas tax is one of the lowest in the country. Inflation has decreased the buying power of the 19.6 cent tax by 68%. An immediate increase of 14.4 cents would be needed just to keep pace with inflation.
New Hampshire Transportation Commissioner, Chris Clement stated that 19% of state roads are in good shape, 44% are in fair condition, 37% are rated poor, that there are 148 red-listed bridges and $250 million is needed to Finish I 93. An increase of 14.4 cents would provide $119.52 million each year to repair bridges and roads.
Governor Hassan’s budget will fund state priorities such as public safety, education, infrastructure and economic development. Some question the legality of her proposals, others decry attempts to change the New Hampshire they know and love; however, no detractors proffer revenue enhancing alternatives. During the gubernatorial campaign, one candidate refused to sign the tax pledge. Perhaps there is a contingent of supporters in the House pining for a sales or income tax that seeks to thwart any attempt to raise revenue to accomplish that end. Some wonder what Governor Hassan is up to. She’s doing what all good chief executives do; she’s trying to lead. If no one will join her, New Hampshire will become a dilapidated backwater. Continue to oppose instead of buying in and we can change our state’s name to Mississippi North.