(Opinion) How the state recovered on the backs of towns

Isn’t it time the state shouldered its pre-recession responsibilities?

Last month, I heard testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee that New Hampshire recovers from recession faster than other states. What they didn’t say was how the state recovered in 2013. It balanced its budget by downshifting $100 million in pension costs onto towns every year. The state used to pay 35 percent of teacher and municipal pensions.

To the Legislature’s credit, they gave back towns a fifth of the pension-sharing money last year — a one-time, measly 7.5 percent. This year, House Bill 50 could make that $26 million permanent.

But on the same day, testimony on HB 100 argued the state is doing so well that it should stop taxing interest and dividends altogether. The I&D tax costs wealthy folks, like me, maybe $2 per thousand invested, in a good year. Far less than the property tax.

HB 192 offers a different option, increasing revenues by $113 million, according to the Department of Revenue Administration. HB 192 would raise the I&D deductible so fewer would pay. But it would return the rate to its traditional 5 percent.

Property taxes have soared since the recession. Meanwhile, the Legislature has given corporations five tax cuts and wants to stop wealthy people from paying any tax at all.

Isn’t it time the state shouldered its pre-recession responsibilities?

Pass HB 192 to keep the “extra” $113 million. Then amend HB 50 to give 32 percent back to towns instead of just 7.5 percent. It’s not quite as much as the state used to pay. But it would let towns and property taxpayers begin to recover from the recession, too.

Jeanne Dietsch of Peterborough, a former senator who served on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is founder of Granite State Matters.

Categories: Opinion