State GOP Seeks End to Campground Tax; Dems Don't

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November 18, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Repealing taxes on campgrounds. Posting state government spending online. Allowing more towns to enact spending caps.

These are among the priorities laid out by New Hampshire Senate Republicans Tuesday (Nov. 17) in advance of the 2010 legislative session. In a conference call with reporters, Senate Minority Leader Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, laid out four main priorities: economic development and job creation, health care accessibility, taxpayer protection and open government, according to the Concord (N.H.) Monitor.

"These priorities reflect the concerns of our constituents," Bragdon said.

Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, an Exeter Democrat, responded that Democrats will be happy to work with Republicans on issues including job creation, responsible government and improving access to health insurance. But when asked about specific proposals, she seemed less inclined to agree with her Republican counterpart. "What we will not accept are efforts to cut revenue and undo the difficult decisions of the past budget process without responsible alternatives," Hassan said. "The devil can be in the details."

Economy and Taxes

Many of the Senate Republicans' proposals were aimed at helping businesses and curbing spending.

The Republicans are sponsoring a bill that would increase the threshold at which businesses must pay the Business Enterprise Tax from $150,000 to $200,000, in order to exempt more small businesses. Bragdon said the limit had not been changed since the early 1990s, even as inflation makes it easier and easier for companies to do $150,000 worth of business.

The Republicans are advocating for tax credits for job creation, and for the adoption of an accelerated depreciation rate for capital investments for businesses. That means if a business expands a building or buys new equipment, the amount that they are taxed for the new property will drop at a faster rate. The Republicans will also try to repeal the new taxes on campgrounds and limited liability corporations.

Bragdon did not know how many businesses would be helped by the tax changes. He also could not say how Republicans would pay for the loss in state revenue that would come from repealing or adjusting taxes. "We're still evaluating exactly how we want to structure the opposite side," he said.

On the spending side, the Republicans advocate allowing all cities and towns to put tax and spending caps in place. Currently, only those with town or city charters can implement caps.

The Republicans want to require a supermajority of legislators, instead of a simple majority, to both divert money from the state's rainy day fund and to authorize any bonds. Bragdon said they have not yet determined what they want the threshold for a supermajority to be, but it would likely be about 60% to 66% of votes. Bonding authorization votes are taken on everything from the capital budget to turnpike projects. Bragdon said it may require a constitutional amendment to create a supermajority threshold.

Hassan said Democrats have looked at issues such as changing thresholds for the business tax and providing tax credits for business expansion. The Legislature already passed a research and development tax credit and a business expansion credit for the North Country. And she said Democrats are looking at ways to help businesses, for example by developing a way to match businesses up with sources of credit.

But, Hassan said of the Republicans' tax proposals, "to the extent it makes the hole in the budget bigger, that's a real issue."

Hassan said the taxes on campgrounds and limited liability corporations were put in place to close loopholes, in order to make the tax system more fair.

"To the extent any of the list of priorities that Republicans issued involves legislation that would simply undo a number of the things we just passed, its not only that those efforts would pull you backward, but every time you put a bill in it costs taxpayers $2,000 to $2,500," Hassan said.

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