Monday, August 6, 2007

Taxes in a Tax Haven

For most of my adult life I lived in Massachusetts. Massachusetts and I totally meshed. I loved the beauty of it - the old stone walls, the close-packed rustic little towns, the elegant white church steeples. I loved Ted Kennedy slugging away for us in Washington. I loved the unexpected mix of grimy working-class mill cities like Lawrence and ultra-liberal, eggheaded cities like Cambridge. Massachusetts was, to my mind, always going to be on the right side of any policy issue. Like California, it was always going to be among the first to try something innovative. It's no surprise that gay/lesbian marriages and universal health care are both being pioneered in Massachusetts.

Then I moved to New Hampshire, a state that always, forgive me, gave me the creeps. There were a lot of things to feel weird about, such as the way the southern urban areas suddenly give way to ... nothing. Cross the state line, drive half an hour north, and you're nowhere. It's essentially unsettled, like certain parts of Saskatchewan. You don't even know which direction you're headed half the time. Only trees for company, and the occasional shack-turned-taxidermy shop. Creepy, as I say.

But what really bugged me was the superior attitude that New Hampshire people always seemed to be flinging around. And always about taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. They didn't have those nasty taxes, at least not the way the "massholes" from "Taxachusetts" did. No sales tax, no income tax, and willing to throw out any would-be governor who wouldn't pledge to keep it that way. We thought, 'What rubes.' They thought, 'What suckers.'

Then I moved here. David was here, so I sort of had to.

Since moving, I admit I've come to appreciate a few things about the state. There's an upside to the tax thing: I got a de facto raise of $200 per month (no income tax, remember). And so far, I haven't seen the minimalist public services that I expected. The schools, at least here on the Seacoast, seem great, the parks are manicured, the beaches kept clean. I wouldn't be surprised if some essential public need has indeed been ignored, and eventually I'll discover what it is. But from my current, not-too-needy perspective, things look good.

But there's this: New Hampshire, so self-proud, is actually financing itself on the back of its southern (and northern) neighbors. It does this three ways: through interstate tolls that back up traffic on summer weekends for miles, through huge state-sponsored liquor stores on that same interstate (located conveniently near the borders of Massachusetts and Maine), and through high restaurant and lodging taxes targeted to hit out-of-staters.

I say good for you, New Hampshire, that you're able to let your own residents off the hook for taxes. But shame on you for making the "massholes" and other unlucky neighbors pay your taxes for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like MA is trying to take a page from NH . . .

Bill calls for tolls at New Hampshire border
June 1, 2007

BOSTON --Massachusetts lawmakers debated a bill that would place tolls along the New Hampshire border at Interstates 93 and 95 and Route 3 to help pay for Massachusetts' crumbling roads and bridges.

"When we cross over the border to New Hampshire, we have to pay their tolls, so it makes sense to do the same thing for folks coming over and using our roads and bridges," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said Thursday.

The bill would put tolls on I-93 in Methuen and on I-95 in Salisbury, and another on Route 3 at the New Hampshire border. An amount was not specified. Language included during the Route 3 renovations, however, prevent tolls on the road, said Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell.

The bill would also place tolls on major highways like I-95, Route 91 and I-295 along the borders of Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut.

"We need to look at any and all options to increase revenue in a way that will be the most equitable to all residents of the state," Spilka said.

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen has asked lawmakers to hold off on advancing any legislation dealing with tolls or taxes, according to published reports, until Patrick releases a report about possible solutions to the neglected infrastructure due at the end of the year.

Sen. Steve Baddour, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, said it's unlikely the bill will leave the committee.

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