Speaker of the House Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) has a message for Granite State Democrats hoping to keep New Hampshire in the income-tax business:
Not gonna happen.
“That’s one of my lines in the sand,” Packard told NHJournal. “I’m not changing it. And we will not back off from it expiring at the end of this session.”
Packard made his remarks after receiving the 2023 Tom Thomson Defender of Liberty Award from the New Hampshire chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-NH) last month.
Packard was responding to efforts led by Rep. Susan Almy (D-Lebanon) to revive the Interest & Dividends Income Tax, which is scheduled to completely phase out at the end of 2024.
Public support among Democrats for keeping the income tax has surged in the wake of Rockingham Superior Court Judge David Ruoff’s ruling that state education funding must be a minimum of $7,356. The net cost to state taxpayers would be nearly $538 million annually. And, Ruoff said, that is likely just the beginning.
Rouff’s ruling is certain to be appealed, but State House Democrats who have long supported the I&D income tax are already pushing to prevent its repeal.
State Sen. Cindy Rosenwald (D-Nashua) said meeting the newly mandated funding increase would be “difficult given the GOP’s recent elimination of the I&D tax, paid by only 10 percent of Granite Staters, and tax giveaways to multinational corporations.”
Packard isn’t budging.
“They are serious,” Packard said of Democrats’ efforts to save the tax. “They wanted to back it off a year in this [2024-25] budget from when we had it expiring. And I said, ‘No, it’s staying.’”
Democrats claim the I&D income tax only impacts the wealthy, but Packard pushed back on that argument.
“These are retired people, many of them living in part off this income,” Packard said. “Even though they may get their Social Security, they’re also counting on their investments and savings. And that money’s already been taxed. It doesn’t need to be taxed again.”
At the awards ceremony, AFP-NH state director Greg Moore listed the I&D income tax phase-out among recent legislative accomplishments, along with expanding Education Freedom Accounts, reform of some occupational licensing rules, and the creation of a land use docket in the state Superior Court to help clear the backlog of cases that are preventing new housing and construction.
“Despite low expectations, 2023 was a good year for policy,” Moore told the crowd.
Packard received his award from its namesake, Tom Thomson, AFP-NH’s Honorary Chairman and son of legendary Granite State Gov. Mel Thomson.
Thomson noted Packard faced “challenges that other speakers have not had to work through,” such as conducting House business in the era of COVID and leading the slimmest possible majority.
“He has handled these unique challenges with the respect of his members, a commitment to having an open and accountable process, and a good deal of grace,” Thomson said.
“We truly appreciate his commitment to principle, the hard work, and his willingness to take criticism that goes along with leadership.”
In his speech, Packard said he’d received many awards during his time in public service, “but nothing means more than to receive an award from the Thomson family. Gov. Thomson was one of the best governors we’ve ever had. It’s truly humbling for me to get this award.”
As for the upcoming second year of the session, Packard said, “We’ve got too many bills.” He told NHJournal the House has more than 800 bills to deal with, “so we’ve got a lot of work to do over the next five months.” That includes 249 bills retained from last year.
Still, Packard said, “There are some good issues we’re going to try to push, like further expanding the EFAs.”
But that can only be done, Packard told the AFP-NH crowd, “if everybody shows up” — a pointed message to GOP state representatives in the audience about legislative attendance.
“We can get some more done, but it will take everybody’s participation,” Packard said.