My Turn: Why did Democrats chicken out on their $800 million carbon tax?

For the Monitor
Published: 1/25/2020 6:00:41 AM
Modified: 1/25/2020 6:00:30 AM

The 66th New Hampshire Legislature has reconvened for the second year of this biennium session. The House of Representatives met on Jan. 8 and 9 to vote on bills that were retained in 2019. The Committee of Science, Technology and Energy (STE) had several retained bills, including one that proposed an $800 million carbon tax. “Climate crisis” is the battle cry of many of my colleagues in the House who are Democrats, but after months of hearings and amendments, their Democratic leadership team decided to table their carbon pricing policy to avoid a full debate on the House floor.

Before a vote is taken there is often parliamentary inquiry that begins with, “Mr. Speaker, if I know that
. . .,” which is followed by points as to why the House should vote with the representative giving the parliamentary inquiry. The chairman of the STE committee summed up his side of the debate in his inquiry before asking the House to table House Bill 735. If the motion had failed, the argument against the $800 million carbon tax would have been presented.

The initial hearing for this bill convened on Jan. 30, 2019, and lasted the entire day. Proponents of the bill wanted to collect fees from those who use carbon and rebate or redistribute it to others. A witness testifying against the proposal stated, “Taking $100 from someone today, with the promise that they’ll get $70 down the road sometimes, does not sound like a good idea.”

Townsend Energy in Merrimack, among others, pointed out that: “The total emission of carbon dioxide in the U.S.A. is 5,249.3 million metric tons per year. The state of New Hampshire is among the lowest in the U.S.A. at 15.1 million metric tons, or less than .0029% of the U.S. total. We already know that no state will emit zero carbon dioxide, so why are we trying to tax the people of New Hampshire $300 million to $800 million a year to solve a small portion of the less than .0029% we currently contribute? I cannot see how the average citizen in New Hampshire can rationalize this.”

The New England Convenience Stores and Energy Markets Association testified that: “Every cent the state charges though this plan will get pushed down the various supply chains and ultimately end up (hitting) New Hampshire citizens’ wallets. It will affect anyone who drives a car, heats their home or business, anyone doing a construction project of any kind, anyone who buys groceries, or eats out at a restaurant, and on and on. This tax will touch everyone in the state multiple times each and every day.”

The domino effect was further explained by Rep. Michael Vose: “The collapse of the New Hampshire economy is what this carbon tax will likely induce. Since surrounding states will not have adopted this tax, energy prices in those states will become lower than those here. People will drive to neighboring states to buy cheaper gas. Renters, especially those who commute out of state to work, will move there because apartment utilities will be lower. Since all goods and services vendors in New Hampshire will be subject to the carbon tax, the price of everything will go up. This inflation will cut back on other expenses, such as labor. Jobs will be lost. Companies may eventually be forced to relocate out of state. New Hampshire will fall into a death spiral of economic chaos.”

Perhaps these are the reasons why the Democrats did not want to debate this bill before the cameras in Representatives Hall and instead put forth the motion to table the bill. Unless the House votes to reconsider the bill, beginning with a proper debate – followed by a roll call vote – we will never know the names of the those who voted in favor of the largest tax increase in New Hampshire history.

I guess it should come as no surprise that Democratic leaders in the House were not excited to have their caucus potentially vote to pass an $800 million tax in an election year. It is a shame they didn’t take a stand on it. I and other Republicans would have favored taking a vote on it, so we could kill it right away.

(Jeanine Notter of Merrimack is serving her fifth term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She is the deputy Republican floor leader and serves on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.)


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