RAYMOND - In session on April 23rd, the House voted on SB-367-FN-A which was rushed through the House by the Speaker appointing a special committee “Joint Public Works and Highways and Ways Means”. This is a joint committee of the two House committees so they only had to have one Public Hearing and one Executive Committee meeting to vote it to the floor.
SB-367-FN-A, (new title) requiring adjustment of the road toll according to changes in the Consumer Price Index, eliminating certain ramp tolls on the Everett turnpike in the town of Merrimack, and establishing a committee to study the effectiveness and efficiency of the department of transportation. This bill increases the gas tax by about 4cents per gallon, on gas and diesel fuels, immediately, authorizes automatic further increases, and allocates all increased revenues to the DOT. It specifies how the money is to be used: first, to payoff $200M in new bonds to widen I-93, then road and bridge maintenance, including the 12% share for localities. It eliminates the Exit 12 ramp toll in Merrimack. This will hurt fuel sales in our NH border towns. Increasing diesel will also have an effect on moving of goods, such as food, causing an increase in these products.
The two hour debate went as follows: bill came out of the committee as OTP; then 4 floor amendments were brought forward attempting various changes. All failed
Whether or not you support the concept of a gas tax increase, I thought it would be helpful to clarify some of the misconceptions about SB-367. Before jumping into a major tax increase, we need to take a hard look at the intricacies of this bill and the system by which the revenue would be used. I hope you find these points informative.
Misconception #1: This bill’s sole purpose is to help improve infrastructure. No. This bill removes some tolls in Merrimack, which results in a loss of revenue to the Turnpike Fund. Many people believe toll planning should be solely the responsibility of the 10-year Highway Plan. Trying to attach such legislation to a tax bill is not appropriate. Consideration of the removal of tolls should be part of a broader review of our highway and turnpike systems, its revenue, and how funds are allocated, to avoid any adverse or unintended consequence.