April 1 – CONCORD – The Senate’s top Republican has said he is proposing a two-month suspension of the state’s gas tax now that the latest revenue growth points to a record budget surplus.
If approved, the gas tax suspension would begin May 1.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, says the Treasury will reimburse the state’s Highway Fund for the $26 million in gasoline tax revenue that will not be collected in May and June. .
“We appear to be above revenue projections of $50 million just for March. Thanks to the terrible federal energy policy, our citizens are really hurting, and this is the best and most immediate way to relieve them,” Bradley said in an interview. .
“There is clearly a surplus, and now is the time to do it.”
Bradley offers his plan as an amendment to legislation passed by the House that would reduce the state’s corporate income tax from 7.6% to 7.5% (HB 1221).
The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on this amendment next Wednesday.
The move comes days after Governor Chris Sununu pleaded with legislative leaders to act on a gas tax suspension, as other states already were.
Senate Speaker Chuck Morse, R-Salem, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, had not endorsed a gas tax suspension but supported the change, Bradley said.
Morse said he will speak in detail at next week’s hearing.
“Jeb has put together this well-thought-out proposal, and it’s important that we have a few days before the hearing to let people know if they want to come in and weigh in,” Morse said. “I will be there.”
Previously, Morse had criticized U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan for proposing to suspend the federal gas tax until the end of the year to relieve all drivers of soaring gas prices.
Bradley contrasted this state tax suspension with the federal one supported by Hassan.
“When you’ve been in bed with the Green New Deal like she has, and you’ve supported policies that have driven our gas prices to the ceiling, then when you’re talking about suspending the tax gasoline federal government, it’s a gimmick,” said Bradley, a former two-term congressman.
Hassan said his tax-cutting record included doubling the research and development tax credit as governor and cutting taxes for hard-hit small businesses during the pandemic in the Senate.
“As governor and senator, I’ve been successful in repeatedly lowering taxes, for New Hampshire’s small businesses, Gold Star families, parents and start-ups,” Hassan said in response to criticism. similar from Governor Chris Sununu.
“As the Governor knows, it is his own party members – including Chuck Morse – who are blocking actions to lower gas prices and provide much-needed relief to the Granite Staters.
Hassan campaign spokesman Kevin Donohoe jumped on Morse’s change of heart.
“Senate Speaker Chuck Morse finally relented, acknowledging that Senator Hassan was right and New Hampshire families needed relief at the pumps,” Donohoe said.
“It took weeks of pressure and pressure, but Senate Speaker Chuck Morse finally admitted what Senator Hassan has known for weeks: It’s time to suspend the gas tax.”
Bradley’s amendment makes it clear that federal action to reduce energy prices is most needed.
“The court recognizes that temporary action like lowering gasoline taxes, while necessary, is no substitute for a long-term U.S. energy strategy that will reduce costs and enhance national security,” the court said. law Project.
The House budget framers had previously proposed, then dropped, two plans to relieve motorists at the pumps. One was a gas tax rebate that residents could claim and another was a $25 reduction in annual motor vehicle registration fees.
Officials from the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles told House leaders that such a refund would have required it to hire nearly 100 temporary workers to process the checks.
Bradley’s plan would use excess funds to give the Department of Security $20 million and the Department of Transportation $6 million to cover its own gas tax losses over those two months.
In a separate but related action, the Senate passed a bill (SB 401) to use the surplus to increase spending on municipal bridge work by $36 million and municipal road repairs by $30 million. dollars.
The amendment also doubles to $2 million a fund for matching grants to local and county law enforcement agencies that purchase body-worn or dash cams.
Bradley said the Senate has already approved in other legislation $24 million in “extraordinary needs” aid to targeted public schools, $13 million for sanitation projects, and $5 million to increase education. nursing home rates.
Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy said many of her colleagues in the minority party have led efforts for these state aid programs.
Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, had pursued an increase in the body camera fund to $11.5 million.
“While the proposed appropriation in SB 401 is still a far cry from the amount needed for statewide implementation, it’s a small step forward that I’m happy to support,” Kahn said.