Officials in the North Country are fighting a bill that would take a tax break designed to encourage business to locate in economically troubled Coos County and offer it statewide.
In 2008, as Coos staggered from the closing of paper plants, the state approved a bill proposed by Rep. Fred King of Colebrook that would provide a tax break for business-related construction – assuming the local jurisdiction approved.
But now Rep. Frank McCarthy of Conway says other areas, including his own Carroll County, need help, too.
And his House Bill 359 intends to make the possibility of tax breaks statewide.
McCarthy said originally he only wanted to widen the tax break to include Carroll. But other legislators in Concord wanted it to be statewide.
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who represents the North Country, is among those who object to that approach.
“Our programs need to help those that need a little boost," he said.
And, he said, that’s Coos.
Monday Woodburn was among North Country legislators who gathered in Whitefield to hash over the bill, which goes before a Senate committee on Tuesday.
Nobody had a firm figure on how many businesses have used it or how many jobs have been created since 2008.
And nobody objected when one state representative noted: “it has not made a world of difference.”
But Coos officials argued there was hope that it might still benefit the county, which continues to have serious problems with its economy.
And McCarthy turned that against them.
“Everything I’ve heard so far, the doom of Coos County, tells me that it is not really working in Coos County,” he said.
So, he argued, Coos won’t lose anything if the tax break goes statewide.
But Coos legislators insisted that they can't afford to lose the advantage of exclusivity.
"It is still sort of an enticement, a little sugar that could be spread on a negotiated deal," said Rep. Wayne Moynihan of Dummer.
Woodburn said perhaps the legislature should put McCarthy’s bill on hold to better study its implications and reconsider it - well - next year.
“Restraint is the greatest test of government,” he said.
But McCarthy said when the bill went through the House it had strong, bi-partisan support and there were no objections on the floor before a voice vote.
Tuesday the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee will consider it.