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January 17, 2013

Gov. Hassan would veto beer tax hike

Battle brewing over gas tax

Looks like last call is coming early for a proposed increase in New Hampshire’s beer tax.

But the Statehouse could be heading toward an old-fashioned, barroom brawl over a gas tax increase.

Gov. Maggie Hassan yesterday said she will veto the beer tax hike if it comes to her desk.

“She feels that raising the beer tax would negatively impact the economy and hurt New Hampshire brewers, small and large, who are important employers throughout the state,” Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said yesterday.

But Hassan didn’t rule out increasing the gas tax to fund highway work, setting up a possible conflict with Republican legislative leaders.

Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, is proposing raising the gas tax 4 cents a gallon in each of the next three years to pay for highway work, including finishing the Interstate 93 widening project. The tax is now 18 cents a gallon.

The proposals to hike the beer tax and gas tax are both in trouble in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“I do not think that any tax hike from the House will be warmly received in the Senate, the beer tax included,” Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said yesterday. “The overall sentiment is this is not the time to be raising taxes on New Hampshire families.”.

One senator was ready to drink to Hassan’s opposition to the beer tax hike.

“Perhaps Gov. Hassan and I should go have a beer and celebrate that we both oppose an increase in the beer tax,” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said. “I hope the governor takes a similar view of the proposed gas tax hike.”

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said the beer tax bill has no chance of passage in the Senate.

“We’re not going to tax and spend our way out of our budget problem,” Morse said.

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