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Gas Tax Tussle: State Reps Prep for Floor Fight

Former House Speaker cries foul over supposed missing revenue spreadsheet. Bill sponsor: 'I wasn't hiding anything.'

Rep. Bill O'Brien, the former House Speaker, fired off emails Feb. 25 charging the sponsor of a bill to raise the gas tax of withholding documents from fellow legislators, namely the Republican caucus.

O'Brien (R-Mont Vernon) emailed Rep. David Campbell (D-Nashua) to challenge the bill sponsor's remarks that "every penny" of revenue raised from the gas tax increase would be dedicated to roads and bridges. O'Brien pointed to a spreadsheet he claims only certain committeemen and Democratic leaders were previously privy to. The document shows revenue going to other accounts, including general fund and "$1,251,000 to Fish & Game and $593,000 for DRED/Trails," according to O'Brien. 

"This is such an unexpected (and, heretofore, undisclosed) multi-million dollar windfall (taken, of course, from the wallets of our constituents, who are already paying 50 cents more a gallon for gas since the election), that you went on to advise the Democratic leaders who received your email that they 'don't spend it all in one place,'" O'Brien emailed to Campbell.

Campbell, chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, soon emailed the spreadsheet to O'Brien and offered an explanation. (Patch received copies of both lawmakers' emails.)

The projected funds to those accounts not specifically regarding roads and bridges are bound by current state law regarding the gas tax for boats, snowmobiles and off-highway recreational vehicles, he said. The law governs how unrefunded road toll revenue is distributed, Campbell said. People who buy gas for non-highway purposes may submit receipts to the state Department of Safety/Road Toll Bureau and get "a refund for the tax on the corresponding gallons of gasoline purchased."

"It's a user fee," Campbell said in a phone interview Monday night. "I wasn't hiding anything."

So what is the proposal to raise the state's gasoline tax? It would, according to the bill and Campbell:

  • increase the gas tax by 4 cents per gallon in each of the next three years, and 3 cents in the fourth year, for a total of 15 cents by fiscal year 2017.
  • raise just under $1 billion over 10 years.
  • mean $200 million more in municipal aid for towns and cities to fix their roads and bridges.

Here is the bill as introduced. The House is scheduled to vote on it Wednesday. The version before the House includes an amendment, which would strip away language calling for any increase in the vehicle registration fee.

Atlant February 28, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Keith: No, everyone does not "know this is a bad idea". Many of us think that allowing all those red-tagged bridges to continue to degrade (to the point of mechanical failure and possibly even collapse) is "a bad idea". And we're even willing to pay for these repairs.
News Flash February 28, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Only democRATS think it is a good idea.
Atlant February 28, 2013 at 12:18 PM
News: > Anybody hear about democrats using Gas Tax Money for non Highway Expenditures? So when a person buying gas to fill their ATV, snowmobile, motocross bike, or powerboat* pays a gas tax and that money goes to fund trails or fish and game, that's wrong? *Yes, I know gas bought at dockside may be treated differently, but that's not how casual boaters buy their gasoline.
JPF36 March 04, 2013 at 04:10 PM
According to some news that was just released, the tax paid by off road users is refundable. So if the word gets out and the people start demanding the refunds then how can you still fully fund the money sent to Fish and Game, DRED and the General Fund? Also why was $250 million taken out of the toll booth account and sent to the General fund? The toll money is supposed to be used to pay for road and bridge repairs. NOT as a way to fund the State for any way they see fit.
JPF36 March 04, 2013 at 04:16 PM
her's another way to make more money for roads and bridges. Why not move the toll booths to the Mass border?? I live in Concord and have worked in Bedford for the past 17 years and I have to pay a toll. But people that live in Manchester and work in Mass pay nothing to use the Interstate. How is this Fair? Why not maximize the profits for the tolls and get all the people that use the highway system to pay their fair share. Even the people from Mass that come over to buy our cheaper tobacco and alcohol. Or does this make too much sense ?

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