Rep. Burridge proposes 1 percent state income tax levy to support schools
A House committee yesterday heard the latest variation on proposals for a state income tax: a 1 percent levy to raise money for local schools that could be enacted on a county-by-county basis.
Rep. Delmar Burridge, a Keene Democrat and the bill’s prime sponsor, told the House Municipal and County Government Committee that the Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to ensure an adequate education for every child, but lawmakers have been unwilling to raise the necessary money.
“We continue to fail our children,” he said. “Candidates take ‘the pledge’
. . . to not follow a legal, lawful mandate, yet swear on a Bible – not a comic book – to follow the Constitution. Does finger-crossing negate this? All bets are off? This is not what is supposed to happen.”
Burridge broke out props for his pitch – a can of Pledge spray to represent the traditional “pledge” by New Hampshire politicians to oppose any broad-based income or sales tax, and two potatoes attached to hot peppers with toothpicks to represent how the income-tax issue is a “hot potato.”
Indeed, the bill, which is co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Timothy Robertson of Keene, faces dim prospects. A constitutional amendment to ban any future income tax got 57 percent of the vote on last year’s ballot, though that fell short of the two-thirds required for ratification.
And even if the bill passes the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate, Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, has taken the pledge and in her inaugural address last month made clear, “I will veto an income or a sales tax.”
House Republicans were quick to come out against the proposal.
“We appreciate Rep. Burridge’s candor in his legislation, but I just can’t imagine this bill has any chance of survival,” said Minority Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett in a statement.
The bill would allow any or all of New Hampshire’s 10 counties to implement a 1 percent tax on residents’ gross income. The revenue would be distributed to towns and cities in that county to help pay for local schools, which supporters said would reduce local property taxes.
The tax could be enacted after a public hearing and vote of the county’s House delegation, and it would be administered by the state Department of Revenue Administration. The bill includes a sunset provision that would repeal the law in 2019 unless reauthorized by the Legislature.
Jenn Coffey, a Republican and former representative from Andover, testified against Burridge’s bill yesterday, saying a county-by-county income tax would create a paperwork nightmare for employers and hardship for families.
“I’m not an economist, but I don’t care what side of my paycheck you take money from: The more you take from me, the less I have to feed my family, the less my neighbors have to feed their families,” Coffey said.
The committee didn’t debate or vote on the bill yesterday.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)