The road too often taken
A disturbing rumor is making its way through the halls of the State House in Concord. It involves the state’s chronic revenue shortfall, its growing-like-Topsy budget deficit and an unfortunately long-held tradition among New Hampshire lawmakers. The state’s revenue and budget problems need no introduction. The budget deficit is expected to top $300 million, so finding a reasonable way to cover it is at the top of the agenda for lawmakers and the newly elected governor. Covering the deficit is where the rumor, and the long-held tradition, come in. For decades, whenever New Hampshire has found itself in dire financial straits, the state’s business community is almost invariably left holding the bag. Over the years, we’ve seen “temporary” increases in the business profits tax that have somehow remained longer than Sheridan Whiteside, the Man Who Came to Dinner. And there’s the allegedly “revenue-neutral” business enterprise tax that has tripled in size since its birth during the Merrill administration. Which brings us to the rumor. Apparently some lawmakers are floating the idea of eliminating the business enterprise tax credit that payers of the business profits tax are allowed to take when paying the BPT - a credit that the creators of the BET said proved it was “revenue neutral” at the time. Elimination of the credit would mean millions to a state desperate for money. We’d like to think that this is just a rumor, But as members of New Hampshire’s business community have seen so many times before, budget deficits and the state’s irresponsible revenue system always lead down a single road - and it winds its way straight to the pocketbooks of businesses.