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February 17, 2014

N.H. weighs gas tax increase

Senate considers 4-cent increase

CONCORD — The Senate will hold a hearing tomorrow on a bill to increase the state’s gas tax.

Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, wants to tie the gas tax to the consumer price index.

Senate Bill 367 is expected to increase the 18-cents-a-gallon tax by about 4 cents this July. It also would establish a mechanism that could boost the tax in future years based on economic conditions.

At 4 cents higher, it would bring in an estimated $31.9 million in additional revenue per year.

Rausch already has a powerful ally on his side.

“Thank you to Sen. Rausch for leading efforts to take an important step toward addressing our transportation needs,” Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan said in her State of the State address this month. “I know that we can come together and work through this challenge. We can reach a consensus solution to renew our investment in safe and modern roads and bridges.”

Rausch acknowledged the governor’s support matters.

“It helps the process,” he said.

Rausch expects to have support from the business community, construction industry and hospitality interests.

“I think there is pretty broad consensus we have to maintain our infrastructure,” he said.

The state last increased the tax, also known in New Hampshire as the road toll, in 1991.

Over the winter, Rausch has made the case the state needs to invest in roads and bridges, and inflation has eroded its purchasing power over 24 years.

“I’m about trying to solve the problem,” Rausch said. “That’s why I’m doing this.”

He maintains the increase woudln’t hurt drivers. He estimates a 4-cent increase for a driver who travels 10,000 miles a year, and gets 25 miles per gallon, will amount to just $16.

“That is not a terrible imposition,” he said.

A bipartisan group of co-sponsors includes Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee.

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