New House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, is already walking back comments he made about two state business taxes that are scheduled to decrease in 2020 and 2022.

Shurtleff was asked if he supported keeping those changes in place.

“We’ve got a good robust economy in New Hampshire. We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. I don’t see why we wouldn’t maintain the status quo, but I would want to talk to both Democrats and Republicans on key committees to see what they recommend,” Shurtleff told the New Hampshire Business Review during an interview posted online last week.

They asked if “status quo” meant taxes would keep going down and Shurtleff answered, “Over time — yes.”

But the same business publication reported on the plans of new House Ways and Means Committee Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, who has put in legislation to eliminate the Business Profits Tax reductions that started in 2016.

Her proposal would increase the rate back up to 8.5 percent; currently the rate is 7.9 percent and is set to go down to 7.7 percent in 2020 and 7.5 percent in 2022.

Almy also wants to pass legislation that would give the Legislative Fiscal Committee the power to either repeal or adjust the rate if the state’s Rainy Day fund balance is slumping.

Almy, a past advocate for a state income tax, does not support changing the planned cuts in the other main business levy, the Business Enterprise Tax.

“The effect of stimulus on the growth curve is going to be gone,” Almy said. “Nobody knows what that will bring. I was chair of Ways and Means during the last recession, and I don’t want to go though that again. The corporate income tax, and that is what the BPT is, is our only mechanism. It’s a volatile one, but it is all we’ve got.”

When asked about his remarks, Shurtleff amended that he must have misspoken during the interview because he does support a reversal of the tax cuts and while he had to see the bill, he said that Almy’s plan was “on the right track.”

The new Senate leadership has taken no position yet on Almy’s proposal.

What’s especially interesting about this move is whether Gov. Chris Sununu chooses to focus on it when he gives his second inaugural address in Representatives Hall on Jan. 3.

Sununu has told associates that he wants to be respectful to the new Democratic control of the Legislature in his address but also is considering signaling to them what changes he would find absolutely unacceptable.

During his 2018 campaign, Sununu came under assault from Democratic nominee for governor Molly Kelly for the tax cuts and he vigorously defended them.

Since Sununu signed the second round of business tax cuts into law in 2017, he has become even more convinced that they served as an economic stimulus that helped cause business tax revenue to come flooding in over and above what Republican tax bill writers thought it would.


The elections of 2020 have plenty of consequence — electing a President, a U.S. senator and governor — but there’s another important byproduct that remains under the radar.

The next elected Legislature and governor will redraw the lines of all election districts in New Hampshire for state and federal office.

Clearly this is big motivation for the newly named Democratic majority to retain that status two years from now.

The maps drawn by the GOP-led Legislature in 2011 made it very difficult for Democrats to win, especially in the state Senate.

But new Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said she wants lawmakers to create an independent redistricting commission to make certain that partisan politics don’t dominate these decisions as they have in the past.

“This is an issue we heard about frequently on the campaign trail. Here in New Hampshire it is important to people that votes count and an independent commission is the best way to ensure that,” Soucy said.

Soucy said the legislation to accomplish this proposal is still being drafted but members will be drawn from the fields of demographics, statistics and other fields.

“We want the districts to be the same size but we need to preserve communities of interest,” Soucy said.

Her best example where that has not happened is the Executive Council’s 3rd District, which Concord Democrat Andru Volinsky represents.

“This runs from Keene all the way to Rochester. There are very disparate communities of interest in that salamander district,” Soucy said.

“We need people to look at this from a less political point of view and a more numbers-based point of view.”


While former Trump 2016 co-chairman Steve Stepanek of Amherst has gotten the most attention, he’s not the only candidate for chairman of the Republican State Committee.

Conservative talk show host Keith Hanson joined the fray earlier this month and has been the host of a talk show on Fox News affiliates in New London and Lebanon since 2015.

Hanson also hosts a weekly television commentary program on the Yankee Communications Network.

A Grantham resident, Hanson has made the argument that the state GOP doesn’t have a money problem, it has a messaging problem. He insists that better communication would restore the party’s depleted donor base.

“If we expect to retake our state and federal offices, the time for submission and surrender are over. My perspective is not hindered or obscured by political debts owed or personal favors expected, nor is it clouded by perception biases resulting from entrenchment in the political system,” Hanson wrote in his announcement.

“Further, I understand that the chronic lack of adequate funding is a direct consequence of the lack of effective leadership, the lack of effective strategy and a lack of confidence in a state party that seems unable to effectively brand and market its own message.”


The other lesser-known GOP party race is for vice chairman. Expected incumbent Alan Glassman decided soon after Chairman Wayne MacDonald not to seek another two-year term. The candidates are former House Deputy Speaker Pam Tucker of Greenland and Cheshire County GOP advocate Kate Day.

The difficulties Hanson faces in getting traction in this race are twofold.

One is pretty obvious [-] Stepanek comes from the Trump orbit and he’s already gotten the support of some of Trump’s most prominent followers for his campaign.

Like it or not, one of the first duties of the next party boss will be to serve as a critical ambassador who rebuts the anti-Trump rhetoric that will dominate the discourse in the Democratic first-in-the-nation presidential primary here.

Stepanek has also reportedly already gotten some reassurance that if he becomes chairman the national GOP will financially assist with resources through the 2020 cycle.

The second problem is the mechanics of this election.

Both Stepanek and Tucker have been spending the last several weeks recruiting candidates to run for the city, county and town posts that will pick the next chairman.

For example, Stepanek helped convince the Nashua City GOP to elect its new leadership with Chairman Jack Tulley and Vice Chairman Peter Silva.

Tucker has helped Stepanek with identifying Rockingham County candidates for party posts while the pair have gotten assists from other Republicans across the state, including state Sen. Bob Giuda in Grafton County, former Rep. Joe Hannon in Strafford County and Greg Hill in Merrimack County.

This race won’t be won by the candidate who gives the better speech.

It always gets won on the ground by working to make sure your supporters end up in influential party posts prior to the election.


Shurtleff did make some pretty astute moves with his committee assignments, accommodating the wishes of his supporters and not punishing past adversaries.

Hampton Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing challenged Shurtleff for the speaker’s nomination but rather than get exiled, he got the chairmanship of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Cushing was one of several Democrats who finally got a leadership post after working in the vineyard for years on the same panel.

This goes for state representatives John Cloutier of Claremont, who gets to take over the House Public Works and Highways Committee, and Bob Backus of Manchester, who will run the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.

Shurtleff reportedly had wanted Rep. Patricia Lovejoy, D-Stratham, to chair the Ways and Means panel, but she preferred to go to the Finance Committee.

Lovejoy got to chair a subcommittee on Finance while Almy returns to run the committee as she did the last time Democrats were in charge.

When Shurtleff decided to move Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, back to the House Judiciary Committee to run the panel, he took longtime member Janet Wall, D-Durham, and made her chairman of the much lower-profile House Legislative Administration Committee.

Shurtleff also gave Republicans at least their proportional representation on all committees.

Democrats hold 59 percent of the House and most of the panels are 12-8 or 13-9, which is within that makeup.

Democrats have even smaller advantages on the House Committees of Environment and Agriculture (11-9), Municipal and County (11-9) and Legislative Administration (8-6)