CONCORD — The Senate tax writing committee wants to put off any vote on a proposed 12-cent increase in the gasoline tax.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted 3-2 to send the bill to interim study, which would put off a vote on the bill until next session.
House Bill 617 passed the House 206-158 earlier this year and would increase the state’s gasoline tax from 18 to 30 cents over three years and the diesel fuel tax by 12 cents over a six-year period.
The bill’s prime sponsor House Public Works and Highways Committee Chair David Campbell, D-Nashua, said after the vote that the Senate still can act to fix the state’s roads and bridges.
“The bill remains in the budget bill which also allows the House and Senate to address the necessary funding of NH’s infrastructure this session,” Campbell said.
But state transportation officials say they cannot begin to chip away at the growing list of red-listed bridges and deteriorating highways without an increase in the gasoline tax, which was last raised in 1991.
The state Department of Transportation estimates that the tax hike would raise $816 million over 10 years, and of that, $183 million would go to municipalities through block grant aid and state bridge and highway aid programs.
Ways and Means member and Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, has said the gas tax increase is dead in the Senate. A sponsor of Senate Bill 152, which would legalize a casino in southern New Hampshire, Morse has said about $50 million annually for the state’s share of casino profits would go to highway and bridges and finishing the I-93 expansion.
Morse and Ways and Means Chair Sen. Bob Odell, R-Lempster, voted against sending the bill to interim study, while Sens. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia, and Jim Rausch. R-Derry, voted to bring the bill back next year. Rausch chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.
The Senate could act on the interim study recommendation on HB 617 as early as next week.
Morse and Odell may push to have the bill killed by the Senate, or have it tabled instead.
If the bill is referred by the Senate, it will have to come back next session for a vote.