CONCORD – House Finance Committee Chairman Neal Kurk (R-Weare) and House Finance Committee Division II Chairman Karen Umberger (R- Kearsarge) gave the following joint statement relative to the Finance Committee vote on a HB357, which as amended contains a budget for the Department of Transportation. The bill, as amended, passed by a 15-11 vote and will likely be voted on by the full House next week.
House Finance Committee Chairman Neal Kurk (R-Weare)
House Finance Committee Division II Chairman Karen Umberger (R- Kearsarge)
“The DOT budget presented in the committee amendment to HB357 reflects a budget that lives within our current means, without raising the road toll or registration fees. As a result, there is a stark reduction in funds available for our transportation infrastructure. It is a baseline, bare bones proposal that some may call fiscally responsible and others may call irresponsible due to layoffs and service cutbacks that may come as a result. The majority of the committee understands both sides of the argument. This effort, although painful for both for budget writers and our valuable DOT employees, has provided us with an opportunity to see what happens when the can is kicked down the road for far too long. A decade of reliance on one-time revenue sources, creative but temporary accounting solutions, as well as a decline in federal funding have lead us to our current situation.”
“Under this proposal, the department would be facing a reduction in funding of $88.2 million, which represents a 42% cut in highway funds. These reductions will have a significant impact on the services our citizens, visitors, and business community have come to expect from DOT.”
“There are no longer opportunities to employ temporary fixes to correct this disparity. Finance Committee members with decades of experience have explored dozens of options. The only solution would be new or increased revenue streams into the highway fund. This would come in the form of higher registration fees and/or an increase in the road toll. However, the Finance Committee must work within the existing revenue framework unanimously approved by a bipartisan vote of the House Ways & Means committee.”
“Despite reducing the use of highway funds to support the Department of Safety to the statutory level, a provision that had been suspended in past years, reductions of more than 40% are still necessary to produce a balanced DOT budget for the next biennium within the House-passed revenue estimates.”
“The committee believes strongly in the legislative process and our ability to work collectively to find solutions to the tough problems our state faces. We must all do what we believe is in the best interests of our constituents. Through this process the House, and eventually the Senate, will be able to choose a path forward. The committee chose to present this as the baseline option. This is the first step.”