Grocers not happy with cigarette tax proposal

Governor Lynch’s proposed 28-cent-per-pack increase in the tax on cigarettes isn’t going over well with those who sell them.

“I’m very disappointed,” said John Dumais, president of the New Hampshire Grocers Association. Dumais said he had sent a letter to the governor opposing any increase, and the governor’s proposal – which came in the budget he sent to the Legislature on Thursday – “is very substantial. It will impact retailers with more than $1 million in lost sales.”

In his budget address, Lynch said that even with the increase, the proposed tax of $1.08 a pack, would still be “well below those of our neighboring states.”

“And it still allows us to accomplish an important public health goal – deterring young people from smoking,” he added.

But Dumais said that the tax would only be 10 percent less than Vermont’s, hardly worth the price of gas to travel to New Hamsphire to purchase cigaretes.

“It [the difference] won’t be substantial anymore,” said Dumais. “It will hurt border sales. And for every $1 in cigarette sales, that will also be $3 loss in other sales.”

Not all business groups were unhappy with the governor’s budget address.

“We are thrilled,” said Michelline Dufort, president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, referring to Lynch’s proposed $500,000 increase in the biennium budget for the Division of Travel and Tourism Development. “That’s exactly what we are asking for — promoting tourism to help our economy.”

Lynch also adopted some key planks of the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire agenda. He reiterated his support for a research and development tax credit and proposed that a staff person from the Office of State Planning, with some $400,000 in grants to municipalities, be employed to focus on encouraging municiaplities to include workplace housing in their local zoning plans.

In his budgert address Lynch also proposed:

• Maintaining support for the Small Business Development Center and the Industrial Research Center at the University of New Hampshre
• Some $50 million in bonding to help speed up highway projects like the expansion of Interstate 93.
• Some $1 million in the capital budget to support buses and rail service in southern New Hampshire
• Some $13 million in capital funding for regional vocational schools
• About a $10 million increase for the community technical colleges.
• Some $12 million over the biennium for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program
• Some $6 million to improve the state parks system, including $353,000 toward purchasing Temple Mountain. – BOB SANDERS

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