On May 20, 2014, Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law SB 367, an NHMA policy bill that raises revenue dedicated to increased highway block grant funding to municipalities, increased municipal bridge aid, resurfacing and reconstruction of secondary roads, and completion of the I-93 expansion. Attending the official signing ceremony at an I-93 construction site in Windham was NHMA Board Chair Steve Fournier (far left), bill sponsors Senator Jim Rausch, Representative Candace Bouchard, and Representative David Campbell, along with Department of Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement and other supporters of the bill.
New Hampshire Municipal Association uses a member-driven process to establish its legislative policies. For many years, NHMA members have adopted policies to preserve existing funding and identify additional sources of funding for roads and bridges. NHMA's current policy regarding increased highway funding, adopted at its legislative policy conference in the fall of 2012, is as follows:
Highway Funding: Increase in Road Toll (Gas Tax) and Registration Fees
NHMA SUPPORTS an increase in any state revenue source dedicated to highway improvements, including the road toll (gas tax) under RSA 260:32, a motor vehicle registration surcharge, or any other source, so long as all additional revenues are used for highway purposes, and provided that the proportionate share of such additional revenues is distributed to cities and towns as required by existing law.
Municipalities own and maintain 1,685 bridges and 11,865 miles of roadways in New Hampshire. The Department of Transportation has “red listed” 353 of these bridges as in need of replacement or significant repair.
Cities and towns have only two significant sources of revenue to maintain and improve road infrastructure – state aid from the highway fund and local property taxes. Unfortunately, due to declining federal and state support, municipalities are forced to rely increasingly on the local property tax to address local transportation needs. As a result, they continue to fall further behind in basic road and bridge maintenance, pushing higher costs onto future taxpayers. It is estimated that deferring maintenance due to lack of funds increases the cost to taxpayers by as much as five times the original project cost.
Municipalities have a statutory duty to ensure that the roads and bridges in their towns are in adequate and safe condition. Municipalities share 12% of the amount of annual revenues raised through the state Highway Fund, which includes revenues generated by the gas tax and motor vehicle registration fees. Currently, the only way for municipalities to obtain increased state aid is to receive more state aid from the Highway Fund. The only statutory options available to increase the revenues in the Highway Fund are to raise the state gas tax and/or increase state-levied motor vehicle fees. Otherwise, cities and towns are left to rely on the local property tax to support highway construction and maintenance.