With all the talk of gas-tax holidays lately, New Hampshire would be well served to remember recent history. Just eight years ago, then-Governor Maggie Hassan signed “the most significant state-level investment in transportation infrastructure in 23 years.”
Significant indeed. The legislation raised gas taxes by $648 million over 20 years and bonded $226 million including the interest and service fees. The gas tax hike alone was a 23 percent jump for Granite Staters.
Since the passage of this legislation, not a single cent of the bond’s principal has been paid. Maggie Hassan, it seems, has been good at kicking the can down the road for her entire political career.
The bond issued for her bipartisan infrastructure plan (oops, sound familiar?) was designed as interest-only for the first 10 years. To date, taxpayers have paid nearly $9 million in interest without making a dent in the total bond.
That bill comes due starting in 2025, as the $2 million interest payment balloons to $23 million, eating up nearly all of the revenue generated by the increase in the tax hike.
Today, Senator Hassan is proposing a federal gas-tax holiday. Hassan’s proposal, again, just kicks the can down the road – since the taxes raised on gasoline consumption pay for, well, the roads that you and I drive our cars on.
Without revenue, there is no funding for the roads that, well, you and I drive our cars on.
If Senator Hassan were serious about helping everyday Granite Staters better afford the cost of fuel, she’d be talking about real solutions: increasing supply, limiting regulations on drilling and fracking, trucking, and pipelines, and making America truly energy independent such that we’re not dependent on foreign despots whilst they wage wars.
While the New Hampshire legislature can’t do much on long-term fuel solutions, we ought to avoid the very gimmicks being proposed by our kick-the-can-down-the-road D.C. delegation.
Both a $25 rebate check and a gas tax holiday are exactly that. Gimmicks.
And, with a $200 million debt payment due just around the corner, now is not the time to be playing games with highways funds. We must look clear-eyed at the present situation and ensure we’re putting the Granite State economy on a solid footing to withstand any coming crisis without having to resort to raising taxes again in the future.
There is, of course, another caveat to the whole mess that’s about to be upon us. Twelve percent of the additional gas tax revenue has been given back to towns and cities, cheese in the trap. The towns and cities will not stop putting their hand out in 2034 when Hassan’s tax increase sunsets, rather, they’ll be demanding their cut of the pie they will have been getting for 20 years by the time it expires.
Together, we can pick up Hassan’s can, pay off our debts, and reduce our taxes in the future. Let us not fall for the silly gimmicks, but instead rip off the band-aid sooner rather than later.
Accelerate the sunset of then-Governor Hassan’s gas tax – just repeal it now, bringing the rate back to eighteen cents per gallon – nearly 25 percent lower than the Massachusetts rate. Phase out the municipal aid grants over the next 3 years using surplus revenues and set aside the remaining bond payments in a dedicated fund out of that same surplus. A real plan to set New Hampshire on the right path, not gimmicks.
It is time to stop kicking the can and address this situation before the choice becomes more difficult.