Property Tax Relief On The Way — Maybe?
Meals and Rooms Tax
SB 99 would return the municipal share of the Meals and Rooms Tax to its original 40%. This bill would not increase the Meals and Room Tax. It only increases the town and city share of the existing Meals and Rooms Tax. It was voted unanimously Ought to Pass by the Senate Ways & Means Committee last week. Reason to Celebrate? Maybe!
Should this bill pass, Derry and other municipalities throughout the state would see nearly twice as much revenue from the Meals and Rooms Tax as before. For Derry that would mean an increase of $1.3 million dollars. Not just a one-time bump, but a permanent change in the Meals and Rooms Tax revenue sharing. It’s permanence would allow town and school officials to count on this revenue when setting the property tax rate each year. But property taxpayers, it’s too soon to celebrate.
Property Tax Relief Act
The full Senate will vote on the SB 99 on Thursday, March 11. If they respond as they did with SB 118, the Property Tax Relief Act, they will table the bill saying they need to wait for the Finance Committee to prepare its projected revenues based on the Governor’s budget.
General Revenue Sharing
I should also point out that once again the Finance Committee is preparing to suspend general revenue sharing for the upcoming budget cycle. It has decided that the Governor’s proposed budget does not provide enough revenue for the State to meet it’s obligation to share revenues with municipalities under existing law, RSA 31-A.
In other words, in the end the Senate will say they cannot afford to provide property tax relief or increase the municipal share of Meals and Rooms Tax revenues because they have given too many tax breaks to big businesses. Well, they probably won’t put it exactly that way. You’ve heard of the saying “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Well, I’m tired of being Peter.
A quick update on SB 43, the Windham vote differential investigation. For background, see previous newsletter. The House Election Law Committee held a public hearing on SB 43 on Friday, March 5. The hearing lasted for several hours. Windham residents and Republicans came out in force.
Windham residents wanted to make sure that the investigation looked at possible errors due to machine malfunctions as well as possible problems with the recount in Concord. Intense negotiations during the week between Ken Eyring, a Windham resident, and the Secretary of State, resulted in a robust audit strategy that met each of the 11 requirements passed by the Windham Select Board on March 3.
It will involve a national forensic analysis expert to review the software involved, as well as hand counts and multiple machine counts of all the ballots. The audit should reveal any software tampering problems and obvious ballot box malfunctions.
Over votes caused by shadows from folded absentee ballots may remain a mystery if the absentee ballots were stored flat after the election, decreasing the impact of creases being mistaken by the machines as votes.
SB 43 still needs to be amended and passed by the House and then, as amended, by the Senate and signed by the Governor.
One witness asked if this error would have been caught if a recount had not been requested. The answer was “No.” The big question is will the legislature take steps to ensure that future tampering and machine errors will be identified even if a recount is not requested. Other bills heard at the House Public Hearing on March 5, HB 524, HB 491, and HB 480, are vehicles to address the long-term solution to machine and human errors and vote tampering. Stay Tuned!
Link to Bills
To read the full content of any bill discussed in this newsletter, go to the General Court website and search by bill number.