Mar 19, 2015 4:45 PM
State transportation officials warn the agency's proposed House budget is a prescription for disaster.
Right along party lines, the House Finance Committee voted, 15-11, for a budget that cuts $88 million from current spending over the next two years.
"We see with this past winter how hard it is to maintain the roads," said State Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, who was on the losing end. "You think coming into spring, the frost heaves, potholes, all the things that we suffer with. How are they going to maintain the highways?"
Neal Kurk, the chief House budget writer, said the right thing to do was to form a lean, Department of Transportation budget without additional taxes or fees.
"Our job is to appropriate that, to allocate that to the various functions. We have done that,'' Kurk said.
But Kurk said he will support raising the state gasoline tax seven or eight cents per gallon to plug this hole.
"As a state representative, as a fiscal conservative, which I am, I can't stand by and see that happen to the infrastructure of our state,'' Kurk said. "It's too important to our economy and to our peoples' lives.''
The cut would force the layoff of almost half the staff and cut by 50 percent non-winter maintenance and equipment.
But a conservative leader praised the panel for holding the line pointing out that the Legislature last year raised gasoline taxes.
"And there is no reason to reach back into the public's pocket and take more money,'' said Gregory Moore, director of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
In an email to supporters, Gov. Maggie Hassan called the cuts "draconian" that must be stopped.
This long cold winter has reached havoc on New Hampshire's roads with all kinds of potholes.
Critics say if this budget passes and becomes law, those holes will take a lot longer to fix.
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