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May 1, 2013

N.H. lawmakers debate new taxes

Senate nixes 20-cent tobacco hike, heating oil debated

CONCORD — A Senate committee heard testimony yesterday on raising the heating oil tax, while rejecting a House-passed plan to increase the cigarette tax.

The action comes with the Legislature pressed in the closing weeks of the session to figure out how to pay for state services.

Pending are decisions on whether to roll back tax breaks for businesses enacted last year and upping the gas tax.

Casino revenues seen as alternative to tax hikes

The outcomes are far from certain, with a Republican-controlled Senate taking a hard line on taxes while trying to convince the Democratic-controlled House to go along with licensing a casino as an alternate way of funding programs.

“A lot of these issues could come to a head the second week of June in a committee of conference in a hot room in the Legislative Office Building,” Americans for Prosperity state director Greg Moore said.

Moore was pleased yesterday with the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s rejection, 3-2, of the House-passed cigarette tax increase, but mindful it can come back when House and Senate conferees huddle over the budget.

“We’re going to fight every one of these tax increases,” Moore said.

Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Jim Rausch, R-Derry, voted to kill the 20-cent a pack cigarette tax hike proposed in House Bill 659 on a straight party-line vote in committee.

“In this economy, it’s not appropriate to support a tax increase,” Morse said.

“I didn’t think that was appropriate,” Rausch said.

The full Senate will take up the proposal later this month. The cigarette tax still stands to go up a dime July 1 from $1.68 a pack under current state law, without legislative action.

The House-backed cigarette tax plan could remove the pricing edge small retail businesses in Southern New Hampshire have over competitors across the border in Massachusetts, Moore said.

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