CONCORD, N.H. - A cherished New Hampshire symbol trembled yesterday
when the 400-member House of Representatives voted to enact the state's first personal
Political observers say passage of the bill by New Hampshire's new
Democrat-controlled Senate is virtually assured.
But after yesterday's vote, Governor Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said
she plans to veto any income tax that is not approved by statewide referendum. If the
measure were to become law, New Hampshire will lose its status as the only state never to
have enacted a broad-based sales or income tax.
Passage of the combined 4 percent income tax came despite Shaheen's
threat and a furious antitax advertising campaign backed by some of the state's most
influential business executives, its Republican congressional delegation, and four past
The ads warned, "We need not look any further than to our
neighbors in other New England states to see that the result of an income tax will be an
exploding bureaucracy and rapid expansion of the size and scope of state government."
If the tax were enacted, it would alter the flow of tax dollars
between New Hampshire and neighboring states. New Hampshire would gain about $60 million
in income tax revenues now paid by residents who cross the border to work in
Massachusetts, according to state Senator Mark Fernald, one of the bill's sponsors.
Ecstatic income-tax proponents said the vote marked the death of the
vaunted anti-tax "pledge" that all successful gubernatorial candidates in recent
decades have taken.
"We are making up for 100 years of propaganda around this
place," said Senate President Clesson "Junie" Blaisdell. "People know
that the way we've done it over the years is wrong."
Advocates said the vote also spotlighted the waning political power
of the state's biggest newspaper, The Union Leader of Manchester, whose conservative
publisher, the late William Loeb, crafted the pledge.
State Representative Elizabeth Hager [R-Concord], the prime sponsor
of the new tax bill, said its passage in the House also signaled a shift away from strict
conservative domination of the state's Republican Party.
"This has always been a Republican state and it still is, but
these people were ready for an income tax," Hager said. "This is the fairest way
to do it."
Friday, March 5, 1999
Pigs are flying
By Adolphe V. Bernotas
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Who would have believed it? A broad-based tax
for New Hampshire. Generations of conservative New Hampshire politicians of both parties
are turning in their graves.
The 400-member House on Thursday committed what has been a political
mortal sin for the past five decades. By a vote of 194-190 it approved a
"broad-based" tax - a combination income and statewide property tax - and sent
it to the Senate.
The last time something similarly unthinkable in the "Live Free
or Die" state happened was 18 years ago when the House approved a personal income tax
that got nowhere in the Senate.
This time, the Senate is different. Democrats are in control for the
first time since 1912 and broad-based taxes are no longer anathema in the Senate.
This time the governor and the Legislature are under extreme pressure
to come up with enough money to pay for a new way to fund education. The state Supreme
Court gave them until April 1 to come up with an alternative to the unconstitutional local
The state has taken pride in the fact that it was the only state for
a time, and now one of only two states, without a general sales or income tax. Alaska is
The state supports itself with a jumble of taxes on telephone bills,
eating out, renting rooms, interest and dividends, business, property sales, beer,
cigarettes and its hard-liquor monopoly.
Think of the worst, most scrofulously repulsive, insulting,
sacrilegious obscenity you have heard. "Broad-based tax" in New Hampshire's
conservative political vocabulary is worse, or used to be.
Opposing broad-based taxes has been a political act of faith. New
Hampshire gubernatorial candidates solemnly have performed a political ritual known as
"taking the pledge," a vow to veto a broad-based tax.
With support from the staunchly anti-tax The Union Leader of
Manchester, the only statewide daily newspaper, the pledge ritual was begun by the late
Gov. Wesley Powell, first elected in 1958, and consecrated in the 1970s as a political
sacrament by Gov. Meldrim Thomson, who coined the slogan "Ax the Tax."
Studies since the 1930s have recommended broad-based taxes, but all
attempts to enact them have failed, and gubernatorial candidates who have failed to take
the pledge or espoused such taxes have been defeated.
Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has taken the pledge, but what will
happen to that vow remains to be seen if the Senate passes the tax. She has said she might
reconsider if it is part of a referendum, and approved by voters.