NH-DOT Transportation Czar Defends Gas Tax Increase

NH Gas tax payerThe NH Department of Transportation Czar, Christopher Clement Sr., took some time (and taxpayer money) out of his otherwise busy day, to give us his thoughts on the 4.2 cent gas tax increase.  It is titled, Fueling the Gas Tax Discussion.  Minister Clement advises us to be wary of political ads bearing false witness–that is to say, you see all those campaign ads about that ‘skyrocketing gas tax’ increase.  Well, those aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

I bet you didn’t know this, but since that tax was implemented gas prices in NH have gone down to $3.58 a gallon.  I guess we can call that extra $33,000,000.00 million dollars Clement estimates this tax will divert from the NH Economy ‘free money’?

Bureaucratic Fist bump!

Not so fast.

Is there any chance he is suggesting that raising the tax will drive the price down even further or that taxes don’t really affect the wallets of New Hampshire families?  I’d say yes to the latter.  And why not.  Your department just got a 33 million dollar a year raise.  Better make sure the people paying it feel good about being fleeced.

Mr. Clement also takes the time to remind us that gas prices dropped nationally in July and that it was the largest single-month drop in 6 years.

He does not bother to explore that, probably because it does not actually mean anything.

According to NH Gas Prices.com the average price of gas in New Hampshire in late 2008 was as low as $1.58 a gallon.  The five year average prior to 2010 looks as if it were around $2.50 per gallon.  Last November the average price of gas in New Hampshire was an Obama Administration low of $3.25 a gallon.

Was there a memo from Clement on the drop to $3.25?  I don’t think there was.  No”tax increase’ to frame the decline so why bother?

You have to wonder what made it go up to $3.65 so it could drop to $3.58, so that the NH-DOT could get excited about that paltry 4.2 cent gas tax increase.  Could it be that the average price for a gallon of gas in the state since late 2010 has been around $3.50 a gallon?

I guess what Commissar Clement really means is “we are still paying the same average price plus we get to pay even more when it goes back up now that we’ve passed a shiny new gas tax.”

Who says you need a political ad to escalate that rhetoric?  Transportation commissioners can do it too, on the state payroll, on a taxpayer funded website.

What else can we glean from the Commissioners missive?

Well, his estimate of $33 million dollars in increased revenue affords us an opportunity to look at transportation funding in a different way.

If raising tax by .042 cents per gallon will generate $33 million more each year, according to NH DOT, then dividing the tax by NHDOT’s profit equals 785,714,285.714 gallons of gas.

785,714,285.714 gallons of gas times the existing state tax of 0.18 cents a gallon gives us a haul of $141, 428, 571 (141 Million dollars), to which we now add the 33 new millions.

785,714,285.714 gallons of gas times the additional federal tax of 0.184 cents per gallon tells us that the Feds are extracting another 144,541,428. (144 Million dollars) as well.

That’s a lot of gas tax dollars taken from people in New Hampshire, and yet mid way into his missive the Transportation Minister says this.

The State and Federal Highway Funds, which depend on state and federal gas taxes, are running on fumes.

Really?

The Highway ministers in DC get about 40 billion a year in “fumes” plus billions in other requests I have no time to chase.  And I’m not going to get into the weeds with the stimulus dollars and endless strings of appropriations for “job creating” highway funding that Democrats crammed through when they controlled the White house and Congress, or any similar boondoggles or funding schemes since then.

I’m going to keep it simple.

If NH kept most of that 144.5 million per year that it sends off to the Federal government, and gave it to Commissioner Clement, we’d have a state transportation budget of almost 400 million Dollars a year.  (That includes the 150 million annually from fees and misc. revenue sources), before we include (BEFORE) the shiny new 0.042 cent gas tax increase.

Fumes?  Seriously?

Isn’t this one of those”government is broken” opportunities?  Clearly the system does not work as currently structured, and New Hampshire could do a far better job of managing its own transportation infrastructure needs if the feds would just step aside and let us keep the taxes we already charge motorists.

Yes, while I have been busting Commissioner Clement’s chops, and am also familiar with how highway funding is misused in the Granite State, I strongly believe that NH-DOT, along with the legislature, the Executive Council, and the Governor, could easily satisfy all our critical infrastructure needs on less than the 400 million a year in taxes and fees being plundered from the Granite State.  I bet they could do more than we are getting done now for less than that.  I actually beleive they could do a lot more and still give some back to the taxpayers.

You know, between you and me, we actually had an opportunity to keep much of that Federal gas tax money in New Hampshire.  Keep it IN New Hampshire, as in never let it leave in the first place.  Boom, right into the big bucket for roads and bridges, no more hissy-fits, chest-pounding, wall-wailing, or–lets be honest, outright lying about how much money is actually supposed to be available to New Hampshire after we pay at the pump  OK, not no more, but less.

Democrat US Senator Jeanne Shaheen just had a chance to vote on keeping most of that federal gas tax money in New Hampshire but she chose to send it to Washington.   I called it, Bureaucrats Before Bridges, and that is the problem.

There are some fumes to be found, but they are not the fumes being pimped by the media, progressive politicians, or budget hungry transportation bureaucrats.

There is plenty of money being taxed right here in New Hampshire for infrastructure, but politicians and bureaucrats are more interested in protecting a system that favors them over taxpayers and the actual infrastructure itself.

We did not need to raise the gas tax.  What we need is to do something different.  We need to stop the pirates in DC from plundering our wallets for the pleasure of making us dance to get some of it back while they cry poor and make excuses for why they don’t have enough of our money when we know we could do plenty if we just kept it here in New Hampshire in the first place.

 

*Numbers are back of the envelope estimates or based on the data I could find.