February 11. 2013 3:17PM

Kuster on late tax payments: 'Life is expensive and it caught up to us'

Staff Report

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster's return to New Hampshire for the first time since media reports surfaced last week that she was late in making six consecutive property tax payments, totaling nearly $40,000, touched off more Republican criticism Monday.


All of the payments were eventually made. The final payment on her home in Hopkinton and two overdue payments on a home in Jackson that Kuster rents out did not come until media reported on the delinquencies, however.


Republicans for the past week have slammed Democrat Kuster, who has reported having assets worth about $2 million.


Kuster released a short statement a week ago apologizing for the delay and promising that "all future tax payments will be delivered promptly."


Republicans have demanded that Kuster go further and explain why she missed the payments.


She told WMUR television on Monday that she had no excuse and again apologized and took respoinsibility.


"The reality is we have two kids. Life is expensive and it caught up to us," she said.


New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley on Monday virtually announced on his Twitter account that Kuster visited the party office in Concord.


"LOL! I tell staff to dress up 'cause you never know who will stop by. Today I'm wearing jeans because of snowfall. @repkuster just walked in," Buckley wrote on Twitter.


But Kuster did not return to the state Monday, despite reports to the contrary. She had been in the state at least since Sunday.


She was at Southern New Hampshire University on Sunday at the send-off for the deployment to Afghanistan of the New Hampshire Army National guard, 237th Military Police Company. Also attending were Gov. Maggie Hassan and other members of the state's congressional delegation.


State Republican Party spokesman Meg Stone responded said after Kuster's television interview that Kuster left questions unanswered.


"Once again, Congresswoman Kuster failed to be upfront with her constituents and offer a plausible explanation for her long history of late tax payments," Stone said. "She refused to explain why, despite a net worth of nearly $2 million, ownership of two vacation homes, a lucrative corporate lobbying career, and investments in over 20 mutual funds, she wasn't paying her fair share in taxes. And she didn't explain why despite having the resources needed to immediately settle her tax obligations, she decided to make the payments only after the media caught her red-handed."


The National Republican Congressional Committee released a new web video criticizing what it called Kuster's "reckless financial behavior."


The video shows a clip of Kuster saying, "Congress is living by their own set of rules," and then contends, "But after just one month, she fits right in."


"Kuster's financial mess and disappointing response have left New Hampshire families questioning her leadership," said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior "It is preposterous that Kuster calls for higher taxes at every opportunity, yet fails to pay her own when they are due."


Kuster's office did not respond to requests for comment on the NHGOP statement and the NRCC web video.


But NHDP Chair Buckley said: "I continue to find it unbelievable that the same party that just elected as Chair a person with a lien of over 90K for years of back taxes continue to keep unpaid taxes in the news. When Congresswoman Kuster became aware of her small back tax bill, she immediately paid it.in full. When Chairwoman Horn's tax woes were revealed, she called it part of 'personal attacks on my family.'


"From Chairwoman Horn's tax lien; to former Congressman Frank Guinta's mystery bank account, I would say thay Republican should worry about getting their own personal financial houaes in order before spending anymore time thinking about anyone else," Buckley said.