House rejects plan to kill telephone pole tax

In a surprise move, the New Hampshire House overruled a committee report and voted to allow towns to continue taxing telephone poles, rejecting the argument that the tax amounts to double taxation and that it’s inequitable to boot.”It’s like the wild west out there,” said Rep. James Garrity, R-Atkinson, chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, which recommended repeal.Garrity repeated the argument that the telecommunications tax enacted in the 1990s replaced a state tax on telephone poles to capture the revenues of cellphone users.He said that if towns can tax telephone poles, those with telephone land lines get taxed twice.But Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, didn’t buy it. The state taxes gasoline, he said, so does that mean gas stations don’t have to pay taxes on their property?An exemption amounts to “corporate welfare,” Vaillancourt said.”That sounds like something out of Occupy Wall Street. ‘Corporate welfare, corporate welfare! The 1 percent!'” Garrity mocked.He said FairPoint is in a highly regulated industry, and “they don’t make scads of money.” He added that it’s not the telephone company that ends up paying the tax, “it is the little old lady on a fixed income who needs that landline.”It’s also the businesses who need land and fax lines, added Rep.. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson. Jasper’s amendment delayed the exemption so the town that counted on revenues would be held harmless, passed easily.But others said this amounted to no more than a $6 million annual subsidy to a dying technology.”Big government getting bed with big business. What you are doing are subsidize landlines,” said Vaillancourt.Electric companies pay taxes on their poles, said Candace Bouchard, D-Concord. Natural gas companies pay taxes on the pipelines. Even cell phone companies pay a tax on their towers.”This isn’t a new tax. It’s just a new experience for FairPoint,” she said.In the end, the House voted down the committee recommendation, 161-133. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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