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The income tax: NH does not want it

November 09. 2012 3:48AM

The constitutional amendment to ban an income tax in New Hampshire received 57 percent of the vote on Tuesday. So naturally that means that Granite Staters are ready for an income tax. As dumb as that sounds, it is the rhetoric we are going to hear from income-tax supporters over the next two years.

Amendments to the state constitution require a two-thirds vote to pass. This amendment fell short of that 66 percent threshold, but it garnered a solid 57 percent - in a Democratic wave election that saw Republicans lose at least 126 seats in the House. By comparison, Barack Obama won New Hampshire with 52 percent of the vote.

Opponents of the amendment did not argue for an income tax. They argued against enshrining a ban in the constitution. They said it was constitutionally improper to write tax policy into the constitution. Many of them, including Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, made clear that opposing the amendment did not equal embracing an income tax. In fact, Hassan, former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan and other prominent amendment opponents openly stated their simultaneous opposition to an income tax.

To interpret Tuesday's result (which was widely expected, even among amendment advocates) as a signal that New Hampshire is open to an income tax is to willfully misread the vote. And yet some are doing just that. They are certain to make the case to the new governor (who was open to an income tax not so long ago) and the new Democratic majority in the House.

As Hassan is sharp enough to understand, it would be political suicide for Democrats to embrace that misreading of the election. Clearly and unequivocally, Granite Staters do not want an income tax. But when Democrats get around to "restoring" tax cuts made by the last Legislature, the temptation to find new sources of revenue will be great. How they choose to read the amendment's defeat remains an open question.

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