N.H. House Finance Chair Calls On Republicans To Back Gas Tax

Mar 19, 2015

House Finance Committee voted 15-11 on Thursday in favor of a measure that would cut $88 million in DOT funding from the Governor's proposed budget.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A bill that would cut more than $88 million from the Governor Maggie Hassan’s proposed transportation funding will move to the House floor.

The House Finance Committee voted 15 -11 along party lines Thursday in favor of a measure, critics say would send a blow to New Hampshire’s infrastructure.

Deputy Commissioner of the DOT Patrick McKenna said these cuts would lead to more than 600 layoffs, the closure of nearly 200 bridges and devastate the state’s maintenance and plowing operations.

“There has been a declining revenue situation in the highway fund, we have tried to do our best to alert our policymakers and the public of that," McKenna said. "Without revenue we don’t believe we would be able to maintain current services.”

Chairman of the House Finance Committee Republican Neal Kurk, left, meets with fellow colleagues after Thursday's vote.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Meanwhile Finance Chairman Neal Kurk is calling on his fellow Republicans to support a 7 to 8 cent gas tax increase, he said will provide the revenue needed to allow DOT to continue to do their jobs.  

“I am comfortable in the belief that the majority of members of this House will see this as something they are sworn to do," Kurk said.  "And I don’t think there is a thing in this state more essential than the roads that get us to our jobs and the roads that allow the businesses to provide us the jobs to get to.”

But many Democrats argue that the Republican controlled House would not support such a tax increase.

Governor Hassan issued a statement urging legislators on both sides of the aisle to work together to undo the cuts, adding that they will ultimately downshift costs to local cities and towns. 

The House version of the budget is expected to hit the floor on April 2.