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Nov. 9 - Road Usage Fees Considered

This article appears in the E-Ticker News Nov. 9, 2015

NH House Happenings

By Rep. John Cloutier
Road Usage Fee Considered

Legislation requiring drivers of electric and hybrid motor vehicles as well as higher-mileage
gasoline and diesel vehicles to pay a little more for helping to maintain our state
ʼs roads and bridges will be considered by New Hampshireʼs House of Representatives next year.

This legislation was endorsed in principle on Oct. 29 by a legislative study commission, chaired by myself, authorized by House Bill 460 that was sponsored by a bi-partisan group of legislators, including myself and Hanover Sen. David Pierce, who is Claremontʼs state senator. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan earlier on July 20 of this year after both the House and New Hampshire Senate agreed to a compromise version of the bill, which required the commission to submit a final report with recommendations by Nov. 1 of this year.

Specifically the legislation endorsed by the House Bill 460 Commission has been introduced by Plaistow Rep. Norman Major, a Republican, who also chairs the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. This legislation, which has not yet been assigned a bill number for the 2016 House Session, is presently designated as LSR(Legislative Services Request) #16-2001.4. Its sponsors include a bi-partisan group of legislators including Bartlett Rep. Gene Chandler and Londonderry Rep. Sherman Packard, and Nashua Rep. Bill Ohm, who are all Republicans. But other co-sponsors include Democrats like Dover Sen. David Watters, as well as Reps. Susan Almy of Lebanon, Mary Cooney of Plymouth, Paul Henle of Concord, and myself. It is first to be likely examined by the House Public Works & Highways Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Chandler, and of which I am a member.

More specifically, Rep. Majorʼs bill would create a Road Usage Fee for most motor vehicles registered in New Hampshire, an additional fee that would be collected at the time of the vehicleʼs annual registration. The only exemptions from the Road Usage Fee or RUF would be for vehicles model year 1983 and older, motorcycles, and vehicles getting less than 20 mpg(miles per gallon) on a gallon of gasoline. 

The proposed RUF would be based on a hypothetical vehicle which travels 13,500 miles per year, and averages at least 20 mpg or more on a gallon of gas. Based on the 13,500 miles and the 20 mpg a vehicle would use about 675 gallons of gas per year, and pay a total New Hampshire Road Toll, popularly known as the “gas tax,” of $149.85. A total reached by multiplying 675 by 22.2 cents per gallon, which is the current gas tax. The RUF for this base vehicle would be $0.00. But for most other vehicles getting an average of more than 20 mpg, except the exempted ones, the RUF would be $149.85 minus the state gas tax paid per year based on 13,500 miles of travel. 

For example, a Granite State vehicle traveling 13,500 miles per year and averaging 25 mpg should consume about 540 gallons of gas with its owner paying of $119.88 in state gas tax. Under Rep. Majorʼs proposed bill, the owner of this vehicle would pay an additional RUF of $29.97 at the time of registration, which is $149.85 minus $119.88. Another example is that of a vehicle owner who drives a vehicle averaging 30 mpg, and by driving 13,500 miles would only consume 450 gallons per year. This owner would only pay $99.90 in gas tax for the year, but pay an additional RUF of $49.95 in RUF, which is $149.85 minus the $99.90. In a final example a vehicle owner drives a vehicle averaging 50 mpg, and at 13,500 miles per year, would consume only 270 gallons of gas. This owner would pay only $59.94 of state gas tax, but pay an additional RUF of $89.91, which is the difference between the earlier described $149.85 and $59.94.

The 13,500 miles per year in Rep. Majorʼs RUF bill is a rounded figure close to the figure of 13,476 miles. The figure of 13,476 miles is the average number of miles that New Hampshire motorists of all ages now drive on our stateʼs roads as of Feb. 20, 2015, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Furthermore, under the proposed RUF bill, the New Hampshire Dept. of Safety in conjunction with the New Hampshire Dept. of Transportation, would develop and maintain a computerized data system that would link the United States Environmental Protection Agencyʼs MPG data system with Safetyʼs VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) data sys- tem. This link would allow vehicle registration agents, which are city or town clerks or their employees in our state, to collect the RUF in its various amounts depending on the vehicleʼs average mpg, including the amounts listed in the three earlier examples. 

The city and town clerksʼ offices, which presently register most motor vehicles in New Hampshire, would retain $1.00 of each vehicleʼs RUF collected by their offices as reimbursement for their help in collecting the fee. The rest of the money collected from the RUF would go to the stateʼs highway fund into a separate account designated as the “Road Usage Account.” This money would be solely used for the maintenance and construction of state roads and bridges, with about 12 percent being used for municipal roads and bridges. According to Rep. Majorʼs rough calculations, the total gross amount of money collected from the RUF would be nearly $48 million year annually.

Also a total of $330,000 in state funds would be allocated to help implement the new RUF, including the data system link. Finally, affected vehicle owners would start paying the new RUF on Jan. 1, 2017, under Rep. Majorʼs bill, if it becomes law. 

In conclusion, I anticipate a major debate on the proposed RUF next year. But I commend Rep. Major for his role in developing this new fee, which would raise more dollars for New Hampshireʼs crumbling roads and bridges.

Email: jocloutier@comcast.net