Where’s the leadership?

It is an unfortunate fact that New Hampshire businesses are overtaxed. From the business profits and business enterprise taxes to the local property tax, businesses pay far more than their fair share to fill the coffers of state and local government.

Business organizations around the state have rightly complained about the situation, sending armies of lobbyists each legislative session to Concord to guard against any further efforts by lawmakers to dip once again into the pockets of the state’s businesses. Often they’re successful in preventing at least onerous tax schemes from going through. Sometimes they’re not.

This year, no matter what happens in the ongoing budget negotiations in Concord, it’s safe to say that business groups will be lucky if they’re deemed to lose only by a TKO. With an onslaught of tax schemes, from “suspension” of the business enterprise tax credit against the BPT to capital gains taxes to tax mortgage refinancings to taxing the dividends of limited liability corporations (unfortunately there are others as well) it will be a miracle akin to parting the Red Sea if businesses don’t fall victim to some kind of major tax hit this year.

That reality points out a flaw in the strategy of business groups when they take on Concord. For decades now, the organizations have almost always taken a reactionary posture to revenue-raising discussions in the State House. Whatever the suggestion when it comes to business taxes, most of the groups line up against it. Besides the generic and often nebulous “cut spending,” there are precious few proposals on their part for an alternative.

There have been some exceptions. The Business and Industry Association a few years back stuck its neck out and supported then-Governor Shaheen’s sales tax proposal. Various organizations have lent tentative support to other tax plans. This year, the auto dealers have lent their backing to gambling. Others have even backed an income tax on occasion. But the vast majority of the time business organizations simply “just say no” or line up at the last minute behind a lawmaker’s proposal and fail to provide real, proactive support to lawmakers who are justly looking for ways to solve New Hampshire’s perpetual budget problems.

Perhaps it’s time they did. It’s obvious that New Hampshire’s revenue structure is an utter disaster and in sore need of a major overhaul (in fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch). There’s no doubt that real leadership from the business community would help us all out of this biennial mess.