Our Turn: Trump tax reform exacerbates the state’s water crisis

Published: 5/15/2019 12:10:21 AM

Communities across New Hampshire are getting hammered by part of Donald Trump’s tax reform, just as they are struggling to do the right thing on the water crisis.

The problem is that the Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is hitting our impacted cities and towns with large tax bills. For example, Hampstead Area Water Company received a $300,000 tax bill on a new water tank and will face another $850,000 in taxes for additional components relating to the Southern New Hampshire Regional Water Interconnection Project to connect Hampstead. This is part of the planning for the Southern New Hampshire Regional Water Interconnection Project, which would route water from Lake Massabesic, near Manchester, and connecting pipes to Derry to provide a water source for the towns of Windham, Salem, Atkinson, Hampstead and Plaistow. Other water projects funded by the trust fund have included connecting communities like Bedford, Litchfield and Amherst, where drinking water is affected by perfluorinated chemicals, to existing municipal water supplies.

Trump’s 2017 tax reforms removed a valuable exemption on contributions in aid of construction (CIACs), established in 1996, making these contributions taxable to the utility – if the utility is a privately owned, for-profit entity. This tax reform will have a chilling effect on the ability of cities and towns in New Hampshire to provide their citizens with safe drinking water and threatens the viability of large water interconnection projects that will be necessary for New Hampshire’s future. As we become aware of toxins in our drinking water and as sea level rises and contaminates drinking water with seawater, economic development will be stymied without sufficient clean, safe drinking water sources.

If Gov. Chris Sununu cares about the future of our drinking water, he must oppose the Trump tax reform – and he should work to reinstate the 1996 CIAC exemption and hold polluters accountable. To date, he has said nothing about this. If he doesn’t stand up to Trump, he is standing in the way of progress on the water crisis. With the highest rates of bladder, breast, esophageal and pediatric cancers in the nation, citizens and communities cannot afford to pay with their wallets and their health to improve the economic future and public health of New Hampshire.

Gov. Sununu should do the right thing for water, for our communities, for our taxpayers.

(Dan Feltes of Concord is the majority leader in the New Hampshire Senate. Mindi Messmer of Rye is a former state representative and 1st Congressional District candidate.)

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