Granite State political observers are scratching their heads over Sen. Maggie Hassan’s latest TV ad bragging that, as governor, she “balanced state budgets while cutting taxes to create new jobs.”
The ad ends with Hassan saying, “I approved this message because fiscal responsibility is the New Hampshire way.”
Perhaps, critics say; but when she was in the State House it certainly wasn’t the Hassan way.
Republican lawmakers who worked with Hassan during her time as state Senate majority leader and governor point to a record of supporting tax increases — including an income tax — and vetoing GOP budgets with tax cuts.
“If Maggie Hassan ever cut a tax, it was only because her arm was being twisted,” said Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), who was first elected to the state Senate in 2008.
It is true that, as a senator, the first-term Democrat has gained accolades from such organizations as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget for backing certain bipartisan fiscal restraint measures in the U.S. Senate. And she has been named the “most bipartisan U.S. Senator” of 2021 by the Lugar Center, named for late moderate GOP Sen. Richard Lugar.
But it’s also true that she voted against the 2017 GOP tax cuts, which saved the average Granite State taxpayer about $1,400 a year and were followed by surging job growth. The COVID lockdowns ended that.
Four years later, Hassan was an enthusiastic supporter of both of President Joe Biden’s major spending bills. She voted for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which only passed the Senate by a 50-49 vote — making her (as GOP attack ads repeatedly point out) “the deciding vote” — and the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which passed the Senate with a 69-30 vote.
With 70 percent of Americans saying they are unhappy with how the Biden administration is handling inflation and the economy, it makes sense for Hassan to shift focus to her record at the state level. However, that record is problematic as well.
Republicans have already made an issue of Hassan’s gas tax hike she signed into law in 2014. But her record on taxes and spending is far broader than the gas tax.
The LLC Income Tax
While serving as the state Senate majority leader, Hassan supported extending the tax on interest and dividends income to limited liability corporations as well. Given that many LLCs are simply individuals doing business as sole proprietors, the impact was a direct income tax on thousands of Granite Staters.
Worse, critics say, Hassan pushed the deal through in a budget conference committee late on the last night of budget negotiations with no public discussion or debate. The tax was wildly unpopular and Democratic Gov. John Lynch signed its repeal less than a year later.
In fact, the tax was so unpopular that, during her 2012 campaign for governor, Hassan claimed at a candidate forum sponsored by the Business and Industry Association, that the LLC tax had the backing of the group. It prompted a correction by the BIA, which said it “did not support nor play any role in designing the so-called ‘LLC Tax.’”
$100 Million in New Taxes and Fees
In 2015, then-Gov. Hassan proposed a budget that would increase taxes and fees by $100 million. When the free market organization Americans for Prosperity -New Hampshire ran an ad making that claim, Hassan denied it was true. The left-leaning website Politifact fact-checked it and confirmed its accuracy. “Overall, we find the statement accurate.”
“Hassan Takes Strong Stand Against Business Tax Cuts.”
That same year, she vetoed a budget bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature largely because of tax cuts in the proposal that she said would “create a more than $90 million hole in future budgets.” As the AP headline read at the time, “Hassan Takes Strong Stand Against Business Tax Cuts.”
After the veto, the state ran on continuing resolutions for several months that year and Hassan did not negotiate with Republican legislative leaders, New Hampshire GOP state Rep. Ken Weyler (R-Kingston) recalled of the budget fight.
“We let her allies, who discovered that the new programs that they were waiting for would now be delayed for months, put pressure on her.”
Several Democratic lawmakers voted with Republicans to override the governor’s vetoes, which essentially got her off the hook, Weyler said. And so it is technically true she “balanced the budget while cutting taxes,” but only after an extended budget fight that she lost.
“She didn’t like the idea of business tax cuts, so we put in a trigger as a compromise,” Carson said. “She and the Democrats pounded on us about the revenue that would be lost. She was adamant about that.”
And what happened when the tax cuts took effect? “Revenues skyrocketed,” Carson said.