Politics
3:45 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Gas Tax Critics Pounce On Campbell's Email Comments

Rep. David Campbell
Rep. David Campbell
Credit Josh Rogers, NHPR

As the New Hampshire House prepares to vote on a plan to increase the gas tax by 15 cents, the bill’s lead sponsor is working to undo the damage of an email he sent top Democrats where he called the gas tax increase “a gift that keeps on giving.”

The email Nashua Democrat David Campbell sent to top Democratic budget writers pointed out that in addition to raising $800 million for roads and bridges over the next decade, the gas tax increase would also generate several million dollars of “bonus monies.”

“Don’t spend it all in one place!” Campbell wrote.

Critics of his bill were quick to pounce. The Motor Transport Association, citing the constitutional requirement  that gas tax money must be used for roads, threatened to sue if the bill becomes law.  Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, meanwhile, chided Campbell that his email ran counter to his claim that “every dollar” of the gas tax hike would go to roads. 

Representative Campbell, for his part, says the “bonus monies” are un-refunded road tolls, a longstanding budget line containing  gas taxes eligible for refund because they were collected for non-highway purposes, like boating, snowmobiling, or agricultural use.

"We have a controversy when we should not have one, and it doesn't change the issue, which is our roads and bridges are in bad, bad shape."

That was Campbell speaking to the House Public Works and Highway committee, which he chairs. Several on the committee questioned Campbell about the email, he told them it changes nothing about the bill’s merits and urged the committee, which last week backed his bill 18-0, to stick together.

"There are people who are going be against this bill and I am just sorry I gave people a thread to pull on."

Republican leaders in the House oppose Cambell’s plan. So do Republican leaders in the Senate.  They want to fund roads with revenue from a casino.