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Editorial: What’s our tax plan? So glad you’ve asked!

When Republican Gov. Sherman Adams thought New Hampshire needed a broad-based tax back in the 1950s, we thought he was right. When Republican Gov. Walter Peterson refused to take the state’s Pledge against such a tax in the 1970s, we thought he was right. When Republican Reps. Bert Teague and Doug Hall suggested a statewide income tax in the mid-1990s, we thought they were right. When Democrat Arnie Arnesen ran for governor in 1992 on a tax-reform platform, we thought she was right. When Republican Liz Hager and Democrat Clifton Below actually convinced the Republican House to pass an income tax in 1999, we thought they were right. When any number of candidates for any number of state offices have spoken squishily about the need for “all options to be on the table,” we have wearily endorsed them too, figuring their tortured speech was code for an income tax.

We bring you this brief, mid-summer lesson in ancient history because of the curious query tucked into the bottom of a column written by former House speaker Bill O’Brien in yesterday’s Monitor. Referring to the editorial board at this paper and others, he asked “What taxes would they have increased in order to spend more money than was available when we cut spending in the 2011-13 budget? And why, if that budget was so awful, have the spending cuts been continued into the 2013-15 budget in order to again avoid raising taxes?”

Well. We’ve been making this argument for lo these 60 years, and finally someone wants to hear about it!

New Hampshire could use a statewide income tax. It would fix several problems that have never felt much like a “New Hampshire Advantage” to us. The existing tax system is regressive. The overreliance on property taxes hits poor people far harder than those with money. In a wealthy state, wealthy people aren’t asked to pay their fair share. Poor towns are saddled with poor schools. And at the state level, a chronic “structural deficit” means there’s never quite enough money to do what government properly should because revenue doesn’t quite keep pace with costs.

In the years that O’Brien was speaker – and often in the decades before him – state budgeters made many harmful choices in the name of keeping existing taxes down and new taxes off the table. Most recently, we’ve seen New Hampshire residents in the throes of mental health crises warehoused in local emergency rooms because there’s no room at the state psychiatric hospital to treat them. We’ve seen pricey tuition bills from purportedly public universities create huge debt for young people just starting out in life. We’ve seen female prison inmates deprived of the counseling and education that could set them on a more successful path, only to land back in prison anew. We’ve seen the state’s roads and bridges go dangerously un-repaired and unimproved. We’ve seen justice delayed in a court system strapped for cash. In a small state, many such problems are imminently fixable. Often the true problem is not a lack of money but a lack of will.

Some of the most egregious failings of that last budget have been fixed in the most recent one. Some have not. Why, O’Brien demands to know from the Monitor and others. Well, it turns out, our view hasn’t quite held sway. (Not yet!) Gov. Maggie Hassan doesn’t turn to us for advice, nor did those who came before her. We don’t work in concert with legislative leaders nor, alas, do they take their marching orders from us.

Thanks for asking, Rep. O’Brien.

Legacy Comments27

I'd like to see both a sales and an income tax added to NH's revenue sources. These would ease the pressure placed on property taxes. A modest sales tax, complete with certain exemptions, and always lower than neighboring states, would allow the state to capture more out of state revenue, while a flat 5% income tax on incomes over a certain minimum would restore a measure of fairness to our tax structure. Together, they would enable the state to meet more of our critical 21st century needs, and do so with less dependence upon federal money to plug holes in our budget. Unfortunately, we have a powerful and vocal minority opposed to virtually any forms of taxation and who would prefer we go back to the 19th century.

The typical democrat solution is always TAX MORE while the true solution is SPENDING LESS.....do the readers know that your tax $$$ went to re-pave a seldom used bike trail along upper I-89...... & poor Claremont..... they just built a massive new Community Center..... and the state wants to spend a $$$$ Million+ for a boat ramp on a lake Sunapee that already has 6. How is that new $15 Million Bath house doing in Hampton? etc etc etc democrats ...sheeeeesh

That's your interpretation. What you get with low taxes is low services: crumbling roads, overcrowded schools without enough textbooks. "Conservatives (at this point, what are they actually 'conserving' ?) seem to have little or no understanding or regard for the investment past generations made in the future. If privatization of government services were truly a model that worked, it would already be in place. But we know that it does not work for the majority, it leaves too many out in the cold. The backwardness of the South until the New Deal began to undo the hold of the white power structure provides the best historical example. Your offered solutions lead only to the feudalization (call it reSouthernization) of the nation.

Nobody should expect any other analysis from a liberal elite democrat alarmist. For the Record NH is doing just fine...schools are not overcrowded and they have enough textbooks and the roads are not crumbling.... just more red hearing arguments from the left as usual

Why does our school tax portion go up every year when enrollments have dropped since 2002, 15,000 less students since 2002.? We should maintain our roads and bridges, but we cannot keep spending on programs that have shown they do not work. We hear cries when heating programs are cut, yet nobody complains when money is spent elsewhere. Folks think grants are free. Taxes will always go up if we keep adding new programs on to the budget, You have to manage your spending, and the state should also be held to that standard. Most of us have no clue how much could be saved if we had an audit that would reveal the waste and poor management in state departments. Instead, we allow increases in cost every year, which means our taxes go up.

It's interesting that the pro-slots folks - from the gov on down to the most fiscally conservative senators - hinge their argument for that dicey source of revenue on the fact NH can't pay for things we need. If our inability to fund important things like roads, public safety and safety net services is true enough to warrant slots, then it's true enough to consider other sources of revenue. We are smart enough in NH to figure this out, but we choose not to.

permitting slots should have ZERO to do with revenue. If the slots cant stand alone as a thing NH residents think is good to have .... without the revenue .......then it has no place in NH

Like our property tax system, an income tax system would be destined to be corrupted by exemption clauses. I say no to an income tax. The answer is a sales tax. Everybody pays, no way to wiggle out of it. Nobody ever cancelled a vacation to a destination because there was a sales tax there, and the argument that it will hurt tourism is false. As for retail sales along the border, as long as the bottom line is less expensive here than there,they will still come. 4 percent. Exempt food and medicine. The other step they should take is to double the tolls. Do this, and we'll still have the least expensive tolls around.

changing from one tax to another tax has NEVER EVER reduced taxes.....but democrats know that dont they?

it is pure folly for anyone to believe that you can replace one tax with other taxes and actually reduce TAXES. New Hampshire is in great shape thanks to the balanced budget the Republicans crafted..... democrats simply just want to change things ...its in there DNA - How is that Obama CHANGE working for ya?

Who said anything about reducing taxes? The goal is to have the same or greater tax revenue, while requiring everyone to pay their fair share. Some people's overall taxes will go up, others will go down. Some will stay the same. But it would be more fair, and ease the burden for those who can least afford those ever-increasing property taxes. Before you start in on "people shouldn't buy houses they can't afford the taxes for," let me just say that 25 years ago, my property taxes were about 8% of my income. Now they are 19%. When I bought the house, I could afford the taxes. Now I'm having trouble, even though my income has doubled during that same time.

The question FOF should be why your taxes keep going up? Look at the % of spending in all areas. Look at the school portion of your tax. Those are the issues ignored. Folks adopt the we need more revenue instead of why do we spend so much more every year, does that spending improve things, and do we get what we pay for. My taxes have doubled in 20 years.

Why taxes keep going up? When our legislature balances a State budget by simply voting to no longer fund programs and mandates, and shifting the entire cost down to the local community and taxpayer, kind of like sweeping a mess under a rug. Then claiming they balanced the budget. Sometimes it is about overspending, but often it is not. The end result is that they increasingly cause we the people to further argue and turn against our neighbors. Job security for them.

Well...take for example the article about the Bow fire station in todays Monitor. $7.7 million dollar price tag. When the most grand lakefront homes in NH with indoor pools, docks, theater rooms, 10 baths, 8 bedrooms, 7 car garages, great rooms, and landscaping up the kazoo come in at half that price, you'd think that might have something to do with your taxes being high. Naw...gotta be that darn legislature.

LOL...best argument for reducing taxes I've heard in a while.

ou got that right GWTW, it is textbook Liberal, Spend and Tax!

The state generates revenue through "Property Tax" but gives exemptions for over 50% of all the private property in the state through "current use". One does not get a "home" exemption, only the larger land owners get it. That's like saying we have an income tax but we exempt all income over say $75K. A few facts on property in current use in NH - Only 4% is farmland; most is held in 10/20/30 acre plots behind private homes; almost 50% of the property owners were in the highest income bracket. So the truth is it is not about farmers or lower income people but really just a tax savings for the wealthier larger land owners. People say it is keeping land open to the public, the truth is that one's land can be in "current use" and be posted "no trespassing". Ever see a house with a sign saying – The 10 acres behind my house are in current use, open to the public? These land owners are happy to own the property, not pay the taxes, let is appreciate in value and everyone else pay the higher taxes so they don’t have to pay. My house goes up in value and I pay more. Wake up NH.

Reference: " The overreliance* on property taxes hits poor people far harder than those with money. " * reliance = dependence = hinge = be subject. RSA Ch. 80:60 http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/V/80/80-60.htm is where the municipality (re: the Article 28-a political sub-division of the state) presumes of that you have "committed" your property, as in N.H. Article 1 "consent"ed to be taxed for all slices of the tax pie, so why not call the Selectmen or City Councilors to honor their RSA Ch. 92:2 to Article 84 oaths to obey the law! In 1996 the N.H. Supreme Court (in the Claremont case) declared the state-wide education property tax to be unlawful as against N.H. Article 5 - Part the Second. So instead of your implied consent, give the Town Fathers your affirmative notice of explicit Article 32 instructions to not be billed for that slice. Of to file your Abatement Application by the March 1st deadline so that those who do not can absorb such as a surcharge to their April 1st property taxes on April Fool's Day, of who are the fools but them who slumber.

There's always Michigan. They have a 4.25% income tax. If you have the good fortune of being a resident of Detroit, you can add another 2.4% on top of that.

Never happen. Came close a couple of times. Shaheen veoted it but with the atmosphere in NH now and the Free Staters and Tea Partiers it is over. They made their money elsewhere and moved here to live of their investments. A mini Caymen Islands without the nice weather. They don't care how much they pay in property taxes because it would still be a lot less than paying income taxes cause they have so much income. They do care somewhat about property taxes. That is why they are trying to get rid of public schools, public roads, public workers, public assistance. Public anything. As long as they got theirs they don't care about anyone else.

Now, you really can't believe what you write. It is such hyperbole and so over the top. No one is trying to get rid of public roads, public workers, public schools or public assistance. I am not a free stater but what I want is public roads that are maintained, not workers standing on the road side watching while one of them uses a shovel. I want an honest days work from most publice employees and public schools where the staff is held responsible for results and if they fail, they are gone. I also want public assistance which is not laden with fraud. Progressives want to hide all of the inefficiencies and fraud by asking for more money. And anyone who worked to get "theirs" should not have an expectation of sharing with those who have not made the effort. Have some self respect.

Have you ever worked in the hot sun on a road for 8 hrs a day, 5 days a week? And don't give me any of that working your way through college crap.

Hard to believe that the lefties believe that the right wants public school gone, roads etc. I guess they are under the impression that the right do not need public schools, etc. Oh yes, we want filthy air, unemployment to rise, and folks starving in the streets also. The media is dictating what you should think, that is obvious by the comments on this forum from folks who have no clue what they are talking about, so instead they name call and repeat what the lame stream media says.

What is the "media"? Do you not include Fox "News", Limbaugh, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Union Leader, Blaze, and others I haven't heard of yet as media? Or is it only outlets you consider liberal you call media? I have followed what ALEC, tea partiers, Free Staters and laws they have passed in the states they are infiltrating when I say they want no public anything. Maybe you personally want some of these things but have only been paying attention to the "media" you believe in and don't really know what is going on?. Free Staters are especially anti-government. So they try to start charter schools, private prisons, get rid of unions and do not believe in investing in the infrastructure of our country. Most don't believe in climate change, fight anti pollution laws and cut state budgets so noroad work gets done.. They are also in many cases are anti police and believe in hiring their own private security guards to protect their gated property. Maybe not here yet but in many areas of the country. When the 20,000 finally get here, this state won't be fit to live in.

Unlike you Tillie who have admitted on this forum to only reading and watching media that agrees with you, I am the opposite. I read about 5 newspapers, watch all networks and distrust all politicians. You have to do a lot of work to find out what is going on. There is a heck of a lot more liberal media than there is conservative media. The responses on this forum are an indication of how the left abhors anybody that disagrees with them, they believe that everything is one sided, their side. When challenged they name call, usually in an arrogant manner, as opposed to addressing what the person said. You folks cannot even handle one conservative writer at the CM. Grant. You cannot believe the CM would allow an opposing opinion. That is how steeped you are in your politics.

Thank you. It needed to be said. Being a recent retiree, where my income has taken a dive, this really hits home. With greatly reduced income, guess what happens to my property taxes? (hint: up). Guess what happens to my lot rent, a result of the owner paying higher property taxes? (hint; up). Growing up, I was under the impression that the more money you made, the more your ability to pay your fair share of taxes, thus your taxes were higher. Not in NH. Screw the retirees!

Property Taxes on a Mobile Home..."really hits home" - Please define what Fair Share is

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