The leader of the New Hampshire Senate said it’s too soon to make a decision on Gov. Chris Sununu’s proposal to retain business tax cuts scheduled to take effect in January, regardless of whether the state meets the revenue benchmarks required by law.
Speaking on NHPR’s The Exchange Friday, Senate President Donna Soucy said she’d need a lot more information about state revenues before making any promises.
“I don’t see whether there will be tax cuts or increases, immediately," she said. "I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Business tax rates were a major point of friction in the fight over the last state budget. The final deal kept tax cuts that Sununu prioritized and Democrats opposed. It conditioned the lower rates staying put on the state hitting certain targets. If state revenues are six percent over forecast on June 30, business taxes will be cut. But if state revenues come in six percent below forecast, current rates would increase, raising state business taxes by as much as 12 percent.
Sununu said, prior to COVID-19, he never envisioned that business tax collections could fall that much. He said given the economic impact of the pandemic, it would be wrong to ask businesses to endure higher rates.
“When they are strained to the hilt, asking them to put more, in taxes to the state is absolutely wrong. It’s the wrong approach and the wrong thing to do,” Sununu said Thursday.
Jim Roche, president of the state Business and Industry Association, raised similar concerns with the legislative committee Sununu appointed to advise him on COVID-
19 relief. Roche, in a letter to the committee said increasing taxes would be “extremely insensitive” and “counterproductive to a quick economic recovery.”
Sununu later wrote to Roche, promising, “When the Legislature returns to Concord, I will call on them to repeal the business tax triggers.”
The question of business tax rates is the latest coronavirus-related matter to rise between Sununu, a Republican, and State House Democrats. A judge this week rejected top Democrats’ challenge to Sununu’s claim that he can act without legislative approval to spend federal relief aid tied to the pandemic. But changing tax laws will require the assent of lawmakers.
That may yet come; but as Soucy indicated Friday, it’s far from a sure thing.
“I can’t tell you we are going to do that anytime soon,” she said.