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Council backs Sununu on call for special legislative session over internet taxes

New Hamsphire Union Leader

July 12. 2018 8:40AM

GREENFIELD — The Executive Council voted 4-1 on Wednesday to support Gov. Chris Sununu in his effort to have the state Senate and House reconvene for one day on July 25 to address a U.S. Supreme Court decision on internet sales taxes.

Democratic Councilor Andru Volinsky cast the only dissenting vote, saying it was premature for the state to take such an action.

With three Republicans on the five-member council, the vote was anticipated as the House has already posted a session on its calendar for July 25 and has scheduled an informational meeting and task force session on the decision for today.

Sununu announced plans to call the legislature back for a special session on June 28, one week after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

The justices ruled, 5-4, that states like South Dakota, which has a sales tax, could collect the tax from online retailers in other states, including the five states like New Hampshire that do not have a sales tax of their own.

Sununu predicted that the special session would pass key legislation now being developed by Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to protect the state’s interests by making it difficult for other states to collect sales taxes from online merchants based in the Granite State.

Democratic Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester, running for Congress in the First District, had urged Sununu to ask lawmakers to address Medicaid reimbursement rates to providers as well, but that request was declined.

Pappas voted for the special session anyway, but Volinsky voted “no.”

“There is no real direct need to do this special session before other states act, and we have a fuller understanding of what we need to do in response,” Volinsky said. “I recognize this is a political season and that may have some impact on this.”

Volinsky said if the state’s strategy misfires, online merchants in New Hampshire could face tax penalties and interest.

“Will the state talk about indemnifying New Hampshire businesses against those penalties and interest, and has anyone quantified the number of businesses affected by the Wayfair decision, and what those costs could be?” Volinsky, an attorney, asked.

“We are asking local businesses to go out on a limb for what is a stretch, legally, that we can fight off these other states.”

Republican Councilor Russell Prescott took issue with those comments, as did Sununu.

“To be blunt, councilor Volinsky couldn’t be more wrong on every point he brought up today,” Sununu said after the meeting. “There will be a task force and over the next few weeks we will have a better idea of how many businesses are affected, but we need to move quickly.”

The council held the first of its “on the road” summer meetings, this one at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield.

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