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Letter: Bosse omitted root cause of budget gimmickry

I have appreciated Grant Bosse’s comprehensive consideration of various issues affecting our state, but he was way off target in his April 7 column, “A long history of budget gimmicks” (Sunday Monitor Viewpoints).

Bosse listed the various machinations that current and past legislatures and governors have gone through in an attempt to generate revenue. He is right in characterizing some of these means as less than ideal, if not downright shady.

However, he ignores entirely the root cause of these gyrations, which both Democratic and Republican administrations have engaged in: New Hampshire does not have a reasonable, stable revenue source. So every body of governance has to cobble together some combination of fees, surcharges and even Medicaid scams to come up with money for needed programs. And, of course, our communities must also rely on the regressive property tax.

We need a broad-based tax to free us from this biennial scramble for adequate funds. We know that Bosse does not favor such a measure, but if he has any pretensions to the notion that he is presenting a reasoned, balanced consideration of the issue, he should at least have discussed it.



Legacy Comments24

this not a taxing problem it is a SPENDING PROBLEM

Current use = good.

CURRENT use responders from below – my premise is simple, This is a property tax state and over 50% of property is in exemption. All those 10/20/30 acre plots are not businesses, tree farms, syrup farms etc.. nor are they posted for the public to use. If the land is a business then register it and get the business deductions same as every other business. Other states have very low property tax and they are not wall to wall houses. Why, because those people can afford to own land with a low property tax. Some of you need to get out of NH and see the country. Maine has low property taxes and I see an awful lot of open land. In NH we benefit only large landowners – that’s like living in a state with an income tax and saying all your earnings over $60K are exempt because you would pay too much. You exempt basic human needs (food, housing, medicine), not luxury items as NH does. Google up when current use started in NH and it came about from complaints of larger land owners saying the taxes were too high – not conservation. One of the arguments was “my land is just setting there, I’m not doing anything with it”. Thus they said we will value your land at its “current use” vs. a “potential” use!! Well my house is just setting here and I’m not improving it. The land out back and my house both have a current market value and the tax base should be set on that. I want to see lower property tax for everyone, the large landowner and the ¼ acre owner. Remember, land in current use (all or a part of it) can be taken out and sold any day to anyone the owner wants. How does current use help stop with over development better than low property taxes for “everyone”?

Maine has 4 Current Use programs including waterfront, tree conservation, etc. Maine is also one of the largest producers of wood products, and a large majority of employment in Maine is based on forestlands. NH does not cater to large land owners. Look who owns land in NH and their income levels.

"Maine has 4 current use taxes". This proves "current use" is not what allows people to own larger parcels of land, low taxes does. In my opinion, the fact that the exemption is only for larger land owners certainly sounds like they are catered to. I agree that all large landowners are not rich and some larger landowners are of average or below average income levels. Think about all those lower income people with 1/4 or 1 acre homes being forced to pay much higher taxes just to subsidize those that own larger parcels just because they don't want to pay the taxes on their property. Maine has low property tax and there are plenty of woods, as you noted.

Nice letter. Regarding any "discussion" of broad-based taxes: conservatives are so fearful of having that discussion that they try repeatedly to amend the NH Constitution to attempt to remove the discussion from the table permanently.

On the contrary, this conservative is not fearful at all. Not when 57% of NH voters feel strongly enough to support a constitutional ban on an income tax. Lets have that discussion all day.

Those who voted in favor of the amendment did so absent ANY reasoned discussion. People will almost always vote against change, and prefer the status-quo, until presented with reasons that an alternative is better, or until conditions become intolerable. By all means, let's have that discussion. But a ballot initiative for a constitutional ban is simply an effort by monied interests to pre-empt ANY discussion.

"Those who voted in favor of the amendment did so absent ANY reasoned discussion." Really? So life long NH residents that voted for a constitutional ban on an income tax made a rush uneducated decision? LOL... I nominate this post whopper of the year.

Reply to GWTW below: Thanks for the reminder that a conservative's definition of "reasoned discussion" amounts to little more than endless repetition of slogans like "Axe the Tax" and "tax and spend" from the monied interests.

Reply to Bruce Currie below. Thanks for the reminder that a Liberals definition of "reasoned discussion" about an income amounts to enacting one.

Well said Mike...

Great letter Mike! I wish the Monitor would have made you their new contributer.

Good letter, Mike.

In NH, 27,000 property owners have over 50% of the entire state in "Current Use" exemptions. Let's bring that property back into the formula. Those properties that are real businesses can list them as a business and allow business laws to apply. Once all those properties are paying, one can only imagine how much lower the tax rate would be for the rest of NH taxpayers. I'm betting the farm that you would hear 27,000 more people screaming for an income tax. After all, the rest of us are paying their share now!!!

Current use is good for several reasons but the main one is that people who own, say, 100 acres would be forced to sell and in the end NH Land would be in the hands of developers and the wealthy. Now, if I won the lottery, I would buy up all of the land in my town. Why? To stop any further development of housing by developers. With what you suggest, I would be penalized by having to pay more taxes. On the flip side is the family farm, in what you suggest you would not have to "bet the farm", it would be gone.

Most of the current use land is in the hands of the wealthy Itsa... You can use that old worn out line that "the developers" would use it all for new developments but no one is buying as the economy has tanked since the Reagan era budget and is not going to get better anytime soon.

So 57% of the electorate are wealthy???

27,000 millionaires in New Hampshire, what do you think GWTW?

"27,000 millionaires in New Hampshire, what do you think GWTW?" I think that leaves 1.3 million that are not.

Again Jim. What is the revenue brought in to NH with wood products, jobs for loggers, furniture etc. What about farms and orchards? You address none of these.

Jim, I really don't think current use--despite its occasional abuse as a tax dodge, is the problem here. Current use was well-intentioned, and does a good job of preserving open space--which many studies show, is cheaper and more beneficial to the local communities than standard zoning residential areas. Residential housing developments, whether 1 or 5 acre lots, quickly exceed their incremental tax contribution with increased demand for services, while the state probably does not need much more commercial/retail development in the southern tier. There's plenty of property to re-develop/ recycle--as was done for the Concord Lowe's.

Sure, ask me if I want to pay a tax, and of course my answer is no. But ask me if I want great schools, safe and passable roads and bridges, ability to access healthcare, investments in economic development to create more jobs, and I think I can find a few ducats to throw in if it means my neighbor is doing the same so we all get what we need. We go through ridiculous lengths to avoid paying for the things we all say we want and need - and then we act shocked when things like property taxes and state college tuition prevent us from staying in our homes and drives us further in debt. THAT is the so-called "NH Advantage," and it costs us all dearly.

"We need a broad-based tax to free us from this biennial scramble for adequate funds." Who is "we"? "We" voted in 2012, and 57% of NH were so against an income tax that they voted to amend the constitution to ban one. You want a discussion about an income tax? Discuss that ballot question and the result.

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