NECN: NH lawmakers debating gas tax vs. casino bill
By Lauren Collins
Few would disagree about the problem New Hampshire faces.
“Roads and bridges are in terrible shape,” says Rep. David Campbell (D-Nashua), “not just at the state level but at the municipal level. I-93, which is a main artery into the state, is $250 million unfunded.”
But there’s plenty of debate about how to fix the problem. Rep. Campbell of Nashua has proposed a $0.15 per gallon increase on the state gas tax to be phased in over the next four years.
“You would immediately see more construction work, more paving. More bridges being fixed,” Rep. Campbell says.
Supporters of the gas tax say it’s only fair. The more you drive, the more you wear and tear on the roads, the more gas you use and the more tax you pay. But opponents say families just can’t afford it.
“Right now we have citizens who are struggling to get by and trying to get through this tough economy with already record high gas prices,” says Greg Moore, State Director of Americans for Prosperity – NH. “The last thing they need is another $3 on top just to fill it up.”
Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester) doubts the legislature will stomach a gas tax increase. His casino proposal on the other hand? It has the Governor’s support and, he says, will pay for road repairs and many other programs.
“This is a non tax budget maker which provides opportunity, creates some jobs,” he says.
Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) doesn’t think new revenue is the answer. To take care of the roads you have to take care of the highway fund, which he says has been raided by other agencies.
“If we just plug the leaky bucket that is the highway fund we don’t need this tax increase at all. In the next biennium it would bring in 75 million,” he says.
The gas tax bill and O’Brien’s leaky bucket amendment are up for a vote before the full House Wednesday. The casino bill gets a Senate vote next week.