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Mass. gas, cigarette tax hikes felt at NH border stores

Union Leader Correspondent

July 31. 2013 11:12PM
Chris Murphy, a cashier at Rogers State Line store in Hudson, said customers were talking Wednesday about the jump in Massachusetts' taxes on tobacco and gasoline. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

Walter and Sue Kimborowicz of Lowell, Mass., are accustomed to crossing the border into the Granite State for most of their shopping excursions.

"We buy everything in New Hampshire," Kimborowicz said as he filled his pickup truck at the Hudson Haffner's gas station. "So for us, the tax increase won't make much of a difference."

Wednesday marked the first day of significant tax hikes on both gasoline and cigarettes in Massachusetts.

Gas taxes jumped three cents, increasing to 24 cents per gallon, while excise taxes on cigarettes increased by $1 to $3.51 per pack, part of a transportation finance bill approved by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Excise taxes have also increased the Bay State's prices for cigars and smokeless tobacco — a 30 percent increase on cigars and a 90 percent increase on smokeless tobacco.

New Hampshire's gas tax is 18 cents a gallon, while cigarette taxes are well under $2 a pack.

Business appeared brisk at the Route 102 gas station in Hudson Wednesday as clerk Alex Rivera restocked shelves with Marlboros, Pall Malls and Camels.

"Don't know if it's due to the tax changes, but it's definitely been busy this morning," Rivera said.

"The customers have definitely been talking about it," said Duane Morency, manager of Two Guys Smoke Shop on Route 28 in Salem.

While Morency said it's too soon to know for sure if the tax hikes will improve his business, he's guessing they will.

"Yes, I think it will definitely bring more folks our way," he said.

At Rogers State Line convenience store in Hudson, customers already come from as far away as Boston to purchase their cigarettes, cashier Chris Murphy said.

"Some people are saying it costs an extra $10 per carton in Massachusetts now," Murphy said. "We've been somewhat busier today and I think that's only going to increase once the word gets out."

Filling up his work truck at the Mobil station across the street from the Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, North Andover resident Mike Solverio said the fuel hike in his home state wouldn't likely affect his regular gas purchases.

Though he was working in Salem today, Solverio said he regularly works in Boston and surrounding towns, which means it's not always worth his while to cross the border.

"Sometimes, by the time I drive to a New Hampshire gas station, I've already spent the three cents (a gallon) I'd save," he said.

Pumping her gas nearby, a Lawrence, Mass., woman disagreed.

"I'm here right now because of the gas tax," she said.

Located within steps of the Methuen, Mass. town line, the Salem Stateline Paysaver store already caters to many Bay State customers, said manager Steve Dardas, who has worked 14 years at the store.

"No matter what's going on, we tend to get mostly regular customers here," he said. "It's really too early to tell what the future will bring. But we are expecting a busy weekend."

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