Now isn't the time to increase the fuel tax

Hiking the tax less than one year into a two-year budget is wrong

My husband started our business in 1978 with a single log skidder and a chain saw. Today, our family logging company employs 20 people and works with hundreds of landowners and businesses throughout southern and central New Hampshire.

We have grown our company in the face of increasing costs – tires, metal, health insurance, payroll taxes, parts and diesel fuel, just to name a few. Despite these challenges, we have managed to stay in business by meticulously reviewing our operations and squeezing as much efficiency out of them as we can.

Currently, our company is well-positioned to increase our workforce and production, but only if our costs do not increase.

One cost in particular has hurt our company – diesel fuel. In 10 years, the price of diesel fuel increased from $1.44 to $4.19 per gallon. Diesel fuel is necessary to process and deliver our clients’ logs and wood chips from local woodlots, tree farms and our own timberland to the sawmills and wood energy power plants throughout New Hampshire.

Even after trimming down in recent years, our company’s fuel expense in 2013 was $813,000.

The proposed fuel tax increase may seem small to many people (4 to 5 cents a gallon), but to us it means about $6,000 more in fuel taxes paid per year. This is in addition to the $23,558 we already pay in fuel tax to the state.

This is money I would rather be spending toward maintaining a safe and dependable fleet of trucks and equipment or on hiring new employees. But I am a realist and I realize roads and bridges need to be maintained and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s budget has a hole to be filled.

Increasing the fuel tax is not the way to do it. Like our company, sometimes you have to adjust your thinking and review and prioritize your operations and move forward only on those projects of importance. The NHDOT’s budget needs a full and complete overview at the next legislative session when its budget is up for renewal.

Adopting a fuel tax increase less than one year into a two-year budget (which passed as a balanced budget) is wrong.

When our company develops a budget and settles on pricing with a landowner or a sawmill, we honor that agreement. We do not decide midway into the project to cut timber payments to the landowner 25 percent.

We honor our budget and our agreements. I believe the state should do the same – honor the budget and the commitment they made to the taxpayers last June.

Lastly, whatever happens during this debate on the proposed fuel tax increase, there needs to be a guarantee that all the funds go to repairing our roads and bridges – the current bill under consideration does not make that guarantee.

Teri Hardwick and her four sons own and operate D.H. Hardwick & Sons Inc., a logging, land clearing and gravel company in Antrim.

Categories: Opinion