Lamontagne, Guinta, Bass voice support for income-tax-ban amendment
The three Republicans running for governor and Congress yesterday urged voters to approve a constitutional amendment next week that would ban any future state income tax.
“This is an issue that should have been brought before the people of this state 25 years ago. We would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble,” U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass said at a news conference yesterday in Concord, where he was joined by gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne, U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and several state legislators. “The fact is that New Hampshire needs to end the specter of having a broad-based income tax once and for all, and we need to do it on the ballot this year.”
The event was organized by No Income Tax, a political action committee led by Republican Kevin Smith, who ran for governor this year but lost to Lamontagne in the Sept. 11 primary.
New Hampshire has no income tax, and “The Pledge” to oppose a broad-based sales or income tax has become a staple of state politics. The proposed amendment, which would ban any new tax on “income earned by any natural person,” passed the Legislature in June, sailing through the Senate on a 19-4 vote and passing the House on a 256-110 vote.
The amendment goes before voters Tuesday for ratification, with a two-thirds majority required. Also on the ballot is a second proposed constitutional amendment, which would grant power to write rules for state courts to the Legislature.
Lamontagne yesterday said that passing the amendment would settle the issue of an income tax once and for all.
“Question One enshrines in our Constitution the commitment that the voters have made time and time again, rejecting those that would call for a broad-based tax, particularly an income tax,” Lamontagne said. “And what it does is, it stabilizes, it makes clear for future generations – particular for those businesses and individuals coming to New Hampshire to expand business and to look at our economic platform – to know that an income tax is not a threat.”
Guinta said the amendment would help preserve the New Hampshire way of life.
“We are a unique state. We have a unique economic climate. We want to . . . ensure that there’s no possibility of an additional broad-based tax in the state of New Hampshire,” he said.
Opponents have called the income-tax amendment unnecessary. Democrat Maggie Hassan, Lamontagne’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, has said she’d veto an income tax if elected but opposes the amendment because she doesn’t want to bind future generations.
“I think we should amend the Constitution only in very narrow circumstances, and we certainly don’t need to make fiscal policy in our Constitution,” she said during an Oct. 21 debate.
Bass’s opponent in the 2nd District race, Democrat Annie Kuster, has said she opposes the amendment. Former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, Guinta’s Democratic opponent in the 1st District, said yesterday that she thinks the amendment is unnecessary.
“My position is that there is no need to pass a constitutional amendment because no one is proposing a state income tax,” Shea-Porter said in a statement released by her campaign.
In a poll taken Sept. 27-30, 42 percent of likely voters said they’d vote for the income-tax amendment, 40 percent said they’d vote against it and 18 percent said they weren’t sure. That survey, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, had a 4 percent margin of error.
Protect New Hampshire’s Constitution, a group that opposes both proposed constitutional amendments, issued a statement yesterday saying voters should reject the income-tax ban.
“There is no reason to be tampering with our Constitution at this time,” said Peg Fargo, the group’s president, in a news release. “Our children and grandchildren should have the flexibility to decide for themselves whether to oppose or accept an income tax in the future. We shouldn’t force them to stick with the tax structure of today when we don’t know what the future holds.”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)