The road to an income tax

Years from now, if the citizens of New Hampshire are seeing income taxes taken out of their paychecks, they will be able look back to the week of Oct. 19, 2009, in “tax history” as the turning point — a time when the foundation for a broad-based tax was laid.

House Ways and Means committee Chair Susan Almy, a Lebanon Democrat who has long been a strong advocate for any tax, but especially an income tax, put together a legislative “summit” that convened that week to, “consider changes to the state’s tax laws.” 

Representative Almy first tried to keep this gathering of legislators a secret to avoid having the voters learn that an income tax would be included on the agenda. When the news of a “tax summit” was leaked to the media, Speaker Norelli told us not to fret because Governor Lynch had pledged to veto an income tax. That’s comforting. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t he the same governor who, after telling us that marriage should be between a man and a woman, turned around and signed the gay marriage bill into law? 

It is curious that one of the main speakers brought to the table is Jeff McLynch, the Northeast regional director for the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy – an advocate for an income tax. In fact, in March he appeared before the House Ways and Means committee to testify in support of a bill that would establish an income tax.

Democrats actually have been laying the groundwork for an income tax the moment they took control of the State House three years ago. Rather than controlling spending and forcing the state to live within its means, they chose instead to create the first $10 billion budget based on over-zealous revenue figures. When the state’s income failed to meet their lofty projections to pay for their 25 percent increase in general fund spending over two budgets, they chose instead to create, or increase, more than 40 taxes and fees, and used more than $400 million in one-time money while downshifting millions of dollars to the local property taxpayer.

In response to their fiscal missteps over the past three years, the Democrats’ answer is to hold a “tax summit” to try and find more sources of revenue to match their out-of-control spending. In fact, it was House Democratic Majority Leader Dan Eaton of Stoddard who best explained the Democrats’ position on the floor of the House last session when he told his colleagues “…it makes sense to know how much you’re spending before you decide how much money to raise.”

The beloved poet Robert Frost, in his poem “The Road Not Taken,” urged us all to ignore the “safe,” risk-free options and to make choices that offer greater risk and greater rewards.

New Hampshire has reached that fork in the road. The question remains, do we take the easy way out and follow other states by enacting broad-based taxes to cover the over-spending, or do we continue to take the road less traveled and strive to become more fiscally responsible with our spending? Hopefully the voters of this state are paying attention.

Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, is deputy minority leader of the New Hampshire House.

Categories: Opinion