To The Daily Sun,
Is Governor Sununu completely out of touch, or does he just not care about the state’s school funding crisis? Judging from his comments at a recent Granite State Taxpayers rally, it appears that both questions can be answered affirmatively. He is out of touch and he does not care.
The rally was entitled “Preserve the New Hampshire Advantage,” referring to the state’s lack of income and sales taxes, yet our real estate taxes are the third-highest in the nation.
And who exactly has that so-called “advantage?” Certainly not property-poor towns who are paying exorbitant real estate taxes to fund education. No, the advantage goes to our wealthiest constituents, many of whom live in property-rich towns that pay relatively little in taxes.
At the rally, Sununu attacked several legislative bills designed to provide direct tax relief to our heavily taxed towns. One, House Bill 686, extends the 5 percent interest and dividends tax to capital gains. Sununu called it an income tax and proclaimed, “… it’s a terrible idea given that we’re putting a lot [of] money into education.” Really?
Has Sununu been paying attention the last two years to all the cries about our inequitable tax system? Where towns like Berlin are closing schools and struggling to keep teachers, programs and supplies? Where the elderly are selling their homes to survive? Where two school systems have sued the state? Does he not know that the state is under court order to provide an equitable and adequate education to all its children but relies instead on local real estate taxes to foot the bill? Sununu is certainly not responsible for the state’s inaction prior to 2016, but the problem has reached a crisis in the last two years, and he should know better.
According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, New Hampshire’s tax system is among the most regressive in the country. Our poorest citizens pay an average of 9.1 percent of their income in taxes, while the wealthiest 1 percent pay only 3 percent. About 91 percent of capital gains go to the richest 20 percent (and 69 percent to the top 1 percent). HB 686 will actually make our system more fair by requiring the wealthy to pay more of their share. And because of HB 686’s generous exemptions, many of our low- and middle-income earners (and elderly) will actually receive a tax cut.
Sununu wants to close the Education Trust Fund and spend $64 million of surplus funds on one-time projects in 24 towns and cities, but only 14 are designated priorities and almost 200 towns will be left out. By contrast, the legislature’s priority is to increase state education aid so that overly taxed towns will benefit.
Sununu’s views are callous and short-sighted. Please contact him and demand that he pass the education funding legislation, which he threatens to veto. Taxpayers deserve a much-needed break!