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March 7, 2013

Gas tax hike gets first green light from N.H. House


Rep. Leon Rideout, R-Lancaster, described the bill as “another in a series of disturbing tax increases proposed this session.”

House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, issued a statement after the House vote, calling it the wrong bill at the wrong time.

“Our working families can’t afford another tax increase of any kind,” Chandler said.

The House, on a 251-120 vote, rejected an amendment from former Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, that would have restricted gas tax money for road work, barring the Department of Safety from using the highway fund to pay for state troopers.

“This is a huge tax increase,” O’Brien told the House.

But Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, who represents Pelham, said the fight over how to use highway funds belongs somewhere else.

“The budget is the place to have that argument,” Jasper said.

The Senate will weigh in later and could block the tax hike proposal.

The Senate is expected to approve a casino bill, Senate Bill 152, that instead would use gaming revenues to help fund highway work.

The developing differences of opinion among the House and Senate on how best to pay for future highway work ultimately could force both the tax and casino issues into the committee of conference process later in the session.

Gov. Maggie Hassan is backing the Senate casino bill, but hasn’t taken a stand on the House gas tax increase.

Hassan has commended both Campbell and Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, sponsor of the casino bill, for their efforts to deal with the highway funding problem.

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