Published DateCONCORD — A controversial bill to increase the state gas tax would distribute nearly $6.2 million in increased state funding for roadwork along with an indeterminate share of additional money for local bridge repair to the eleven municipalities of Belknap County during the next decade. House Bill 617 will come to the floor of the New Hampshire House of Representatives for a vote next week.
Sponsored by Rep. David Campbell of Nashua, the bill would increase the gas tax from $0.18 cents a gallon to $0.33 cents by in three increments of 4 cents and one of three cents during the next four years. The tax on diesel fuel would also rise from $0.18 to $0.33 a gallon in six annual increments of 2.5 cents.
Each year at least 12-percent of the estimated revenue from the taxes and fees would be allocated to a local highway aid fund to be distributed to cities and towns according to a formula, which would apportion one-half of the funds based on their share of the total highway mileage and the other half on their share of the total population of the state.
Funding to municipalities is projected to rise from $3.6-million in 2014 to $7.2-million in 2015, $10.7-million in 2016 and to more than $13.4-million every year between 2017 and 2023 for a total increase of $117.6-million over the 10 years.
In Belknap County, the projected total increases in block grants amount to $1,040,890 for Laconia, $640,012 for Alton, $609,826 for Barnstead, $660,394 for Belmont, $134,379 for Center Harbor, $753,519 for Gilford, $523,752 for Gilmanton, $718,286 for Meredith, $348,979 for New Hampton, $430,495 for Sanbornton, and $214,027 for Tilton.
The bill carried the House Public Works and Highways by a unanimous bipartisan vote of 18 to 0, but Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), the House minority Leader and a longtime member of the committee, was absent and has since expressed his opposition to the bill.
The House was scheduled to vote on the bill last week, but the threat of snow led to the cancellation of the session. The House is expected to vote on Wednesday, March 6. If the passes it will be referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, then returned to the full House for a second vote.
Governor Maggie Hassan has said she is "open" to an increase in the gas tax, which was last raised in 1991, but has not endorsed HB-617. Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has expressed doubts that the Senate will agree to increase the gas tax, preferring instead to allocate a share of anticipated revenues from the introduction of casino gambling to roads and bridges.