County income tax? Better to go the opposite way
State Rep. Delmar Burridge, D-Keene, has introduced a bill to enable counties to impose a 1 percent income tax. What makes this proposal more interesting than most others is that it would not raise revenue for the state's general fund, but instead let county legislative delegations impose the income tax within their own counties. As Republican Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, has pointed out, that is a clear violation of the New Hampshire Constitution's Part 2, Article 5, which guarantees proportional taxation statewide. Moreover, it would instantly give counties significantly more power. Over time the 1 percent tax would be raised and its statutory dedication to teacher pay relaxed, and county government would expand in size, scope and burden.
This proposal comes at a time when there is some bipartisan agreement that counties already are unnecessarily burdensome. Charlie Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center, questions the need for county government at all. Most of its functions can be done by the state or local governments at a cost savings to taxpayers, he says. Former state Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan has seconded those sentiments.
When both sides acknowledge the cost savings to be had by shrinking or even eliminating county governments, why in the world would we want to make counties bigger and more powerful?
That this bill comes after 57 percent of Granite Staters voted to impose a constitutional ban on the income tax shows how persistent the left will be in its pursuit of its holy grail. It will never quit, which means that New Hampshire's anti-income-tax majority can never quit fighting back.