Mar 20, 2015 4:41 PM
Kevin Landrigan: Tough choice for NH lawmakers on the Department of Transportation's budget
Here's an unappealing choice for members of the New Hampshire House next week.
Approve the second gas tax increase in two years or endure 700 layoffs at the Department of Transportation.
"I have confidence that not just Republicans but Democrats and Republicans when they see the consequences of inaction on this will do the right thing and vote for the gas tax increase,'' said House Finance Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare.
Kurk will lead the charge of some conservative Republicans to raise the tax eight cents per gallon.
"And I do not do that lightly. Many of my constituents do not like this and I told them when I was running that I would do my best not to do it but considering the alternatives there is just no choice for any reasonable legislator,'' Kurk continued.
Yet critics say it's unfair for consumers to have to shell out more money less than a year since the last gas tax hike.
"The citizens of the state just had to increase their taxation to that agency by $65 million,'' said Greg Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity.
"It's time for a little bit more responsible budgeting, it's time for people to look at how the money is being spent instead of just how much money you can spend.''
A 4.2 cent increase started last July 1 but it only passed the State Senate because most of it went to widening Interstate 93.
This was the most important highway project and also in the heart of Senate President Chuck Morse's district.
A leading Democrat insists higher gas taxes does not equal higher prices at the pump.
"There is no correlation between the price of gas and the gas tax. If you go to Portsmouth and then over to Kittery, the gas tax is considerably higher in Maine but the price is the same,'' said Rep. Dan Eaton, D-Stoddard, a longtime member fo the House Finance Committee.