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January 19. 2012 11:52PM

House strikes 3 words from income tax proposition

CONCORD — A constitutional amendment that would ban a broadbase personal income tax underwent a seemingly minor, but to some significant, change before it was passed by the House and sent to the Senate Wednesday.

The amendment was originally worded: “No new tax shall be levied, directly or indirectly, upon a person's income, from whatever source it is derived.”

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt proposed that three words — “directly or indirectly” — be stricken from the proposed amendment to “avoid any confusion.”

He said several people were concerned the three words would complicate the underlying goal of the amendment and add confusion to the intent. It could be construed to mean any change in taxes could be a tax on personal income for the person who pays it. Such a case would essentially freeze the state's tax structure in place they argued.

But Bettencourt said after receiving assurances the deletion would not significantly alter the proposed amendment, it was decided to make the change.

Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Keith Murphy, R-Bedford, who wrote the majority of the committee's recommendation to pass the proposed amendment, said the three words were redundant and the change made it simpler.

“We accomplished the same thing without the words. Simple is better,” Murphy said.

He noted the proposed amendment is only about 15 words — much better than Florida's amendment, which is much longer.

The change was approved on a voice vote and then the House debated the amendment, eventually approving it on a 257-101 vote.

The House needed 239 votes — a three-fifth majority — to send the bill to the Senate, which will need the same super majority to place it on the 2012 general election ballot. A two-thirds majority by state voters will be needed to change the constitution.

The governor does have a say on a constitutional amendment.


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