Friday, February 20, 2009

Mitt Romney's NH tax grab

A couple of weeks ago, reports surfaced that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue was trying to collect taxes on purchases that Massachusetts residences made at Town Fair Tire stores in New Hampshire. The backlash was predictable. It was also warranted. Simple fairness suggests to me that it is a bad idea to collect taxes for purchases made in another state; and I'm sure that if this case went to the Supreme Court it would be ruled a violation of the commerce clause.

But because the story surfaced during a rollout of other tax proposals, there was an assumption in some quarters that this was some sort of Deval Patrick scheme to chase people across the border for their taxes. For instance, this post at the most prominent Republican blog in the state:
Governor Deval Patrick's (D-MA) Administration has ordered Town Fair Tire a Connecticut company with 5 stores in NH and 25 stores in Massachusetts to collect Massachusetts sales tax on Massachusetts residents purchases in New Hampshire....

If I were Governor John Lynch I'd be getting the National Guard ready. Governor Patrick has just declared war on your retail economy.
The post quotes from a Boston Globe article detailing the issue. Being the curious sort, I decided to read the article for myself. Buried in there was this point, which seems to be lost on Republican critics (emphasis mine):
The Town Fair Tire legal battle dates back to 2003, when the Massachusetts Department of Revenue audited the three New Hampshire stores Town Fair Tire operated at the time, after receiving evidence that Bay State residents were driving up to buy tires and having them installed at the chain's shops....

Following the audit, Massachusetts authorities assessed the company about $108,947 in tax, penalties, and interest related to the sales.
Lest we forget, Mitt Romney was the governor of the commonwealth in 2003. Mitt Romney's Department of Revenue came up with the plan. It was part of Romney's effort to raise fees and squeeze out other drops of revenue so that he could boast that he did not raise "taxes" in order to balance the budget.

Deval Patrick's administration should publically announce that they are stoppping the effort to collect cross-border taxes. Democrats need to tell the truth about this policy. Something like this:

Mitt Romney's Republican policy of collecting Massachuetts sales tax in New Hampshire shows the lengths Republicans will go to be dishonest about our state's fiscal needs. Instead of having an honest dialogue about our need to raise revenues and pay the Big Dig debts left by 16 years of Republican governors, Romney Republicans in the legislature would rather raid New Hampshire businesses. We should work together to solve our funding crisis instead of resorting to the Romney Republican tax raids.

One other thing...the next time Mitt Romney runs for president, he should be asked over and over again from Keene to Laconia why he wanted to impose a Massachusetts sales tax on New Hampshire businesses.

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