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March 5, 2014

N.H. Senate panel approves gas tax increase

Senate committee OKs 4.2-cent increase

CONCORD — A 4.2-cent New Hampshire gas tax increase received approval on a bipartisan vote in a Senate committee yesterday.

The Senate’s tax policy committee, Ways and Means, recommended passage, 4-1, for Senate Bill 367.

Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, dissented.

“I continue to oppose any increase in the gas tax,” Morse said. “I believe this hurts the families of New Hampshire who can least afford it and it burdens our businesses trying to make ends meet in a fragile economy.”

But Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, the bill’s prime sponsor and a member of the committee, received support from a fellow Republican, Sen. Bob Odell, R-Lempster, the committee’s chairman, as well as two Democrats, Sens. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester and Andrew Hosmer of Laconia.

The full Senate is expected to consider the bill later this month.

The House passed a higher gas tax increase last year, only to see it die in the Senate.

New Hampshire’s 18-cent-a-gallon tax last increased in 1991. Under the bill, it would go up this summer.

Gov. Maggie Hassan thanked Rausch following the vote yesterday.

“In order to keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward, we must work together to address our transportation infrastructure challenges,” said Hassan, a Democrat. “I want to thank Sen. Rausch for leading efforts to take an important step toward addressing our transportation needs and I encourage members of both parties to support the committee’s bipartisan recommendation to strengthen our roads and bridges.”

To advance the bill, Rausch gave up on tying future gas tax increases to the consumer price index, a measure of inflation.

“I removed the indexing,” Rausch said. “The final number will be 4.2 cents.”

Reaction at the Statehouse and the gas pumps showed Rausch still has work to do to win support for the state’s first gas tax increase in 23 years, especially within his own party.

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