MONTPELIER - For Vermont gasoline station operators located near the New Hampshire border, the thought of an increase in Vermont€™s gas tax gives them nightmares, the Times Argus reports. The governor€™s proposal to add a new fee on unleaded gasoline to fund the transportation budget shortfall would spell disaster to the Connecticut River Valley retailers.
"I will lose what business I have left," said Cheryl Cote, who owns a gas station in Canaan, Vt., in her testimony before the Vermont House Committee on Transportation. "This tax is destroying the businesses along the New Hampshire-Vermont border €" totally destroying them."
Chris Cole, director of policy and planning for the Agency of Transportation, pointed out that the state€™s tax revenue hasn€™t been enough to meet the needs of the state€™s infrastructure, especially since gasoline sales have dropped 9% since 2005.
According to the Burlington Free Press, the plan proposes a 4.7-cent decrease in the 19-cent tax per gallon, resetting the tax at 14.3 cents per gallon. "That reduces revenues by $15.3 million. In future years, the price per gallon would be adjusted based on the consumer price index."
The plan would also set a new 4% assessment on the retail price of gasoline before state and federal taxes and fees are added.
"At what point have you taxed people out of the state and out of their vehicles?" asked Steve Pietryka, sales manager at Champlain Oil Co.
Store owners like Peter Annis of Black River Quick Stop in Springfield, Vt., told the Times Argus that traffic is down at his store because of lower state gas taxes in New Hampshire. For stations along the border, the proposal would jack up the price of a gallon of gas 15 cents higher than New Hampshire.
"As a border town owner who has seen the state increase the cigarette tax and a ... drop in cigarette sales, I can only imagine what will happen with this proposed increase in the gas tax," said Annis.
Joe Choquette, who lobbies for the Vermont Petroleum Association, said if the proposal passes, Vermont would have the ninth-highest state gasoline tax in the United States.