On November 22nd, the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-1 in a non-binding vote in favor of recommending a draconian toll increase to Governor Sununu . The plan calls for increasing cash rates of the Bedford and Hooksett tolls from $1 to $1.50 and the Hampton tolls from $2 to $2.50, as well as increases in 3 other New Hampshire tolls.The proposal would increase the current annual toll revenue of $128,000,000 by an estimated $36,000,000 per year. This additional revenue would facilitate an acceleration of planned road repairs on turnpikes, a widening of I-93, and $44 million in debt service, according to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation. Sununu said that while he personally does not support increasing toll taxes, he would leave the decision up to the Executive Council. He did ask that they hold additional hearings, during which public comments were to be heard and taken into account.
One such hearing took place in Concord on December 12th, drawing around 30 locals. By my count, seven people spoke in support of the increase, generally citing that the plan would mitigate congestion and ‘create jobs’, while seven others voiced their opposition, comparing the toll increase to other tax increases that burden businesses, especially those that operate partially or primarily in the transport industry. A few of those who opposed the plan were businessmen who mentioned that they would pass on this cost increase to their consumers, which would result in NH consumers paying more for many products.
Dan Feltes, a socialist senator representing Concord voiced his strong approval of the proposal. “This is about three things!”, he exclaimed. “Jobs, jobs, and more jobs!”. Feltes argued that this much-needed repair and widening of the I-93 would provide many jobs to people in New Hampshire. (Does New Hampshire need more taxpayer-funded jobs? Why not have the government implement a 70% income tax and use the money to employ every person in NH?)
Later in the hearing, Max Abramson opposed the proposed increase, augmenting his argument with vast amounts of data, as he tends to do. Abramson, a former Libertarian gubernatorial nominee argued that tolls actually cost more money than they are worth, cause people to circumvent the tolls, causing congestion on smaller roadways, and hurt local economies. Abramson urged the Council to consider removing the tolls altogether and to cut taxes, which actually results in increased tax revenue.
An official representing NH House Speaker Chandler stated that the speaker opposes the bill because the federal government should be funding the project.
After the last speaker had voiced their opinions and the politicians proposed that the meeting be adjourned, I found myself discouraged that nobody seemed to mention what I considered to be the fundamental issues at hand. So I did. I raised my hand and asked if I could voice my opinion on the proposal before we adjourn. The official running the meeting said yes, so I made my way to the microphone and addressed Councilor Volinsky: “What is the state government currently using the $128,000,000 from annual toll revenue for if not roadwork? I assume that the tolls were put in place by the state government in order to fund the expected infrastructure spending? What happened that was so unforeseen? Should I expect another toll increase for the next infrastructure project or road repair? Keep in mind that the less money I keep from my income, the less money I am putting back into the local economy. This proposal will hurt local businesses.”
Volinsky replied that due to paying for interest on municipal bonds, the toll increase is necessary. He admitted that we probably should prepare for another toll increase in order to fund the next project that the government proposes for ‘the roads’.
Regardless of whether this toll increase really is necessary, we must remain vigilant and hold the government accountable; monitoring how they spend this increased toll revenue of over $160,000,000 per year.
What do you think of the proposal? Please leave your comments below!
Thank you, Governor!!!!