12/11/2012 01:45 pm ET Updated Dec 11, 2012

New Hampshire Income Tax Proposal Gives Counties Option To Assess Own Tax

A New Hampshire legislator is looking get around the state's famed opposition to a statewide income tax by proposing legislation that would allow counties, rather than the state, to institute the tax.

New Hampshire state Rep. Delmar Burridge (D-Keene) has filed legislation that would allow each county delegation in the state to assess a 1 percent tax on unadjusted gross income to help fund public education and other aspects of local government.

"The outcome is to reduce property taxes," Burridge told HuffPost. "All of this would come off the top to reduce property taxes."

New Hampshire is the only state in the Northeast that does not have a statewide income tax and one of only nine states nationally that have no such tax. State candidates have been known to take "the pledge," a New Hampshire political tradition that translates into opposition to a statewide income or sales tax. In November, a statewide referendum to place a ban on a state income or sales taxes in the state constitution received 57 percent of the vote, but fell short of the super-majority it needed to pass.

Burridge said that he believes there is political support for a county income tax, noting that former state Sen. Jackie Cilley did not take "the pledge" during her unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year, but did receive 58 percent of the vote in Chesire County, where Burridge lives. Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan (D) did take "the pledge" during her campaign. Burridge noted that he discussed an income tax in his campaign this year.

Under Burridge's plan, the delegation from each county would decide whether or not to impose a local income tax. Under New Hampshire law, the state House members from each county oversee county government and vote on all finance decisions made by the county commission. He stressed that his bill would shift the decision from Concord and to the local level.

Burridge told HuffPost that his decision to fix the tax at 1 percent of unadjusted gross income is intended to create an equal burden across all income levels.

"People who make money on dividends and investments pay less than the typical average Joe," Burridge said. "Let the rich pay more."

Under New Hampshire legislative rules, Burridge's bill will have a committee hearing and floor vote. And although it will come to a vote, state House Speaker Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth) said it is unlikely to pass. She said that despite the fact the referendum did not receive the super-majority, the results still sent a message to politicians in Concord.

"It gives us a warning that the public is not in support of an income tax in New Hampshire," Norelli told HuffPost.

Burridge is undeterred, saying that his legislation will help New Hampshire residents remain in their homes as they age, rather than having high property taxes force them to move to a rented apartment or out of state.

"As the population ages I want to give them a chance," he said. "We have a shortage of rental units here -- they get top dollar. People stay healthier if they stay in their own homes."



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