- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Unable to gather enough support within their own party, House Republican budget writers Wednesday backed off a proposed increase in New Hampshire’s gas tax aimed at keeping the state’s highway fund afloat.

The House Finance Committee will reconvene Thursday to discuss other ways to avoid an $88 million cut that transportation officials say will result in nearly 700 layoffs and jeopardize road and bridge maintenance.

Republicans would’ve needed about 50 or more members of their party to back the tax increase for it to pass.

“It was a non-starter today,” said Deputy House Speaker Gene Chandler. “This early in the process, at least, it was clear that Republicans weren’t ready to vote for a gas tax increase.”

Without the guarantee of passage, Democrats said they would not put their name on a tax increase that could be used against them in the next election.

The state’s highway fund pays for road and bridge projects and maintenance and is mainly funded by the gas tax and car registration fees. Highway fund projections for the next budget show a more-than-$100-million deficit, even without the cuts.

A 4.2-cent increase in the gas tax passed last year, the first increase since 1991. It brought in just over $30 million designated specifically for building projects, not for routine road and bridge maintenance.

A gas tax increase stood little to no chance of passage in the Senate, which is crafting its own version of the budget.

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