Thursday, April 12, 2007

Senate to vote on CACR18 - Your presence needed in Concord - Thursday 4/12

If you were able to attend (and even better yet, testify!) at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Governor Lynch's constitutional amendment, CACR18, last week - thank you.

This Thursday at 10:00am, the NH Senate will vote on this in executive session. The senate gallery holds about 30 people and I'd like to fill it with opponents of this Constitutional amendment. To do that, I need your help.

Please join me in opposition of what will surely be yet another step towards an income tax, a step away from local control of our schools, and a giant leap towards the end of the New Hampshire Advantage.

We'll be meeting in the cafeteria at 9:00 and going upstairs early to insure we get those 30 seats!! Please email me or call me to let me know that you will be there.

Thank you in advance for all of your help!

Tammy Simmons
Executive Director
New Hampshire Advantage Coalition
(603) 235-9998

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Charlie Arlinghaus: House revolution is a threat to fiscal sanity not just balloon freedom

We have been busy unpacking and have not had time to post since April 4th. I will be updating and backdating the BLOG. Most of the posts will be articles related to taxes and schools and editorials that share our point of view.

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

Charlie Arlinghaus: House revolution is a threat to fiscal sanity not just balloon freedom

WHEN THE revolution comes, there will be no balloons. The Legislature has acted swiftly and decisively to mete out severe punishment against the lawless scofflaws threatening the foundation of western civilization by releasing balloons. Consider the threat to a free society posed by a random mylar smiley face released and coming down willy nilly wherever it pleases.

Smiley will threaten us no more. The release of a balloon will cost you a cool $250 fine. Speeding in a two-ton motor vehicle is much cheaper at less than half the price, so let me be the first to urge would be smiley face hooligans to abandon their nefarious mylar mayhem and turn instead to fast cars.

Obviously this one ridiculous act of legislative exuberance is hardly representative and will almost certainly be killed by the sensible Senate, but it is something of a metaphor for the efforts of a House of Representatives that is finishing up its initial work and passing it over to the Senate. Like the balloon fine, much of the work of the House is well meaning and passionate but will have to be corrected, toned down, or set aside by the state Senate.

If all its work were just silly things like the balloon fine, we'd enjoy a nice chortle and be on our way. But the revolution has come and it's not balloons that are threatened.

The real mess that the Senate will be forced to clean up is the state's fiscal stability, both on the spending and the revenue side. The House takes the first crack at the budget process and its crack is a doozy that should leave us all reeling.

The governor had proposed the largest budget increase in more than a decade, about 14 percent, much higher than the rate of inflation. The House of Representatives looked upon that as something of an opening bid and decided to ratchet up spending by an additional $178 million above that already high number.

To make matters much worse, the budget House members will adopt today takes $60 million ordinarily paid for in annual revenues and borrows the money instead. By bonding millions in operating costs, the state is doing the equivalent of you using a credit card to make your mortgage payment. For the sake of your own finances, please don't follow this example.

The last four budget years, including budgets by Governors Craig Benson and John Lynch, had been quite frugal to get spending back on track to sustainable levels. In one fell swoop, the exuberant House of Representatives decided to spend every dime available during a boom in business revenues and raise bunches of taxes and fees to boot.

There has been a significant shift in approach on the tax and revenue side of the picture. Traditionally, we assess fees to cover the cost of some basic regulatory efforts. A fee might cover the cost of filing paperwork or processing an application. For the general operations of government we use regular taxes, not inflated fees.

However, in the rush to find more and more revenue to fuel one of the largest spending increases in history, fees are being manipulated to fuel the general budget. One of the more honest bills, raising a permit fee by 50 percent, actually deleted the language beginning "the amount of the fee shall reflect the relative effort necessary for review of the application." That way we can use the fee as a pseudo-tax. For example, we're raising car registration fees another $6 not to cover the cost of registration but as a tax to fund the general operation of government.

The increase in the tobacco tax will cost small businesses in New Hampshire about $140 million in revenue. But instead of worrying about tax policy hurting businesses, the rush for revenue causes a typical legislator to say "I feel bad but we need the money."

Taxes and fees hurt businesses and taxpayers. We limit fees to recovering the cost of the regulation to keep them from being raised every time the state government wants another $178 million. Considering the damage caused by tax policy helps balance the pressure created with the budget process with sensitivity to the needs of the citizens that budget serves.

The revolutionary exuberance of the House needs to be popped like a balloon by a careful and sensible Senate.

Charles M. Arlinghaus is president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank in Concord.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

House party: When state reps. go wild

The following editorial appeared in the Union Leader.

House party: When state reps. go wild

THE HOUSE votes today on a $10.4 billion budget that raises spending nearly $180 million above the level Gov. John Lynch proposed in his inflated, record-setting $10.2 billion budget. And the House Finance Committee chairman has the audacity to call it a "conservative" budget.

Gov. Lynch's budget would have been the first state budget in history to break the $10 billion mark. It raised taxes and fees by nearly $111 million. But even at this record level, House Democrats were not satisfied.

We wrote on Feb. 18 that state spending would be higher this year than Gov. Lynch proposed because he has "a Legislature even more eager than he is to tax and spend." Lo and behold, the House's proposed budget is a whole $178 million higher than Lynch's.

Who is fighting all of this spending? Not the governor, at least not in public, anyway. He has expressed some "concerns" about the House proposal, but he has not fought a public fight to keep spending under any sort of control.

Nor have House Republicans made a real effort to trim spending. Their grand scheme is to make a political issue of the tax and fee increases. But they have no plans to burn any energy trying to actually restrain spending.

So the taxpayers are left with no active advocate in Concord, unless the Senate suddenly gets religion and decides to break out a paring knife at the last minute.

Gov. Lynch might have been able to impose some restraint on legislators had he made clear, as Gov. Craig Benson did, that he would not tolerate spending or tax hikes above a certain level. But Lynch is not that kind of leader.

Now just about all taxpayers can do, besides complaining to their legislators and the governor, is hope that legislators don't view easy tax and fee hikes this year as an invitation to go for even more next year.

Monday, April 9, 2007

NH still low-tax: For now, at least

The following editorial appeared in the Union Leader. To learn more about keeping the New Hampshire Advantage visit the The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition

NH still low-tax: For now, at least

IN ITS LATEST ranking of state and local tax burdens, the non-profit Tax Foundation again ranked New Hampshire as having the second-lowest tax burden in the nation. But that favorable tax climate is in jeopardy.

Only Alaska has a lower tax burden than New Hampshire, but that is because Alaska gets proceeds from oil exploration. New Hampshire stands alone as the only state in the nation to keep its tax burden low purely through frugality. (And it stands, incidentally, between the two highest-tax states in the nation: Vermont and Maine.)

New Hampshire's frugality, however, is being challenged. The newly elected Democratic majority in the Legislature, along with the governor, is pushing huge tax and fee hikes this session despite sitting on a $46 million budget surplus.

Even worse, the Legislature does not seem interested in standing up to the state Supreme Court to avoid the broadbased tax that its education funding mandates will impose. On the contrary, legislators seem eager to have that revenue.

The Tax Foundation's study shows that the average state and local tax burden climbed to 11 percent of personal income this year, its highest point in 25 years. Granite Staters pay only 8 percent of their income in state and local taxes. That is a huge advantage, particularly over our high-tax neighbors. It not only encourages economic growth, but it leaves residents free to decide on their own how to spend more of the money they earn.

That freedom is the real New Hampshire Advantage. The current Legislature is quickly working to erase it.