I am not going to say ‘I Told You So’ but you already know that I am. Last year Representative David Campbell proposed a meager $.12 cent gasoline tax that would go directly to the roads and bridges fund. This would have been the first increase to the gasoline tax in over two decades. The Concord Monitor explains what the increase would mean:
“When fully implemented, the additional 12 cents per gallon would bring in about $92 million a year. It would mean an estimated $816.8 million over the next 10 years, $183 million for municipal aid and $633.8 million for state projects, on top of revenue from the existing gas tax.”
The ‘no tax increase’ TEA-publicans in the NH Senate rejected the bill. Not only did they reject the idea, they legislatively killed the bill so that it could not be resurrected in the next session. That decision is now going to hurt the people they swore to represent.
The NH Department of Transportation is facing a $20 million dollar shortfall. The problem only gets worse as they face a $50 million dollar shortfall in 2016, and $107 million by 2017. A shortfall that easily been corrected by the $.12 increase.
Kevin Landrigan reported on the DOT funding problems in yesterdays Nashua Telegraph.
“(Transportation Commissioner Chris) Clement said to cope with declining revenues, starting in October 2015, he would have to lay off a third of his workforce of 1,750”
That’s right, if we do not do something to adjust for the rising costs of road repairs, the state will have to lay off over 500 workers.
“(Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement) filled in some of what this would mean – a 56 percent drop in the crews that fix ailing bridges, a 20 percent cut in the number of salt sheds and closing one of the agency’s six district offices.”
Gary Rayno from the Union Leader also spelled out the drastic cuts to the DOT’s workforce and what that will mean for Granite Staters. “The state’s 13 bridge maintenance crews, which repair the majority of the state’s red-listed bridges, would have to be reduced to seven. The current winter maintenance policy of having the roads “black and wet in two-and-a-half hours” won’t hold, he (Clement) said, noting it will take longer. The 300-member engineering staff, which designs and inspects federal projects, will be cut in half.” Patrick McKenna, the department’s Director of Finance said, “We may come up with the $250 million to finish the (Interstate 93 expansion project between Salem and Manchester), but not have the engineers to do it.”
Gary Rayno perfectly captured Senator Morse’s response to these proposed cuts at the Tuesday night hearing.
“We’re going to have to look at reducing spending … rather than increase taxes or tolls,” Morse said. “We produce the budget and (Clement) needs to live within his means.”
Morse is standing firm on his ‘no tax increase’ pledge by telling the DOT commissioner to take the little money you get and like, because we are not raising taxes. Actually he implies that they need to make deeper cuts that they already have to make ends meet.
Morse is even opposed to a smaller increase to the gas tax as proposed by fellow a Republican Senator.
“A bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, Senate Transportation Committee chairman, will be introduced in the 2014 session to raise the gas tax 4.5 cents, which would raise $32 million a year for highways.” (Union Leader)
Then there is the question of the $250 million the state still needs to finish the I-93 expansion. If the DOT cannot come up with the funds the entire project will come to a grinding halt in October of 2016.
How many jobs is the state going to have to cut before the Senate President will see the error of his ways? How many laid off laborers from his district will it take before Senator Morse starts to care about them and their families?
So are we finally willing to talk about our revenue options?
“When fully implemented, the additional 12 cents per gallon would bring in about $92 million a year. It would mean an estimated $816.8 million over the next 10 years.” (Concord Monitor)
I will let you contemplate that idea as you are crawling along I-93, in the middle of a winter storm, as you are waiting for the non-existent snowplows to do their work. Or maybe you will reconsider that ‘no tax increase’ policy, as you wait for yet another front end alignment on you car due to the massive potholes popping up throughout the state.
Some of us have been right here waiting for the Legislature to start making investments in our state, and putting people to work.