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Friday, August 8, 2014

Hemingway looks to shake up NH’s business taxes in race for governor

NASHUA – Republican Andrew Hemingway said he would push for a 2 percent flat tax on businesses, nonprofits and government agencies as governor, saying the measure would be the cornerstone of an ambitious restructuring of the state’s existing tax levies.

Hemingway, a political activist from Bristol, said he would seek to spur economic activity in the state by eliminating the business profits tax and business enterprise tax, as well as the medicaid enhancement tax levied on hospitals. Hemingway said he also would seek to drop the state’s tax on interest and dividends to 2 percent to help small businesses grow. ...

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NASHUA – Republican Andrew Hemingway said he would push for a 2 percent flat tax on businesses, nonprofits and government agencies as governor, saying the measure would be the cornerstone of an ambitious restructuring of the state’s existing tax levies.

Hemingway, a political activist from Bristol, said he would seek to spur economic activity in the state by eliminating the business profits tax and business enterprise tax, as well as the medicaid enhancement tax levied on hospitals. Hemingway said he also would seek to drop the state’s tax on interest and dividends to 2 percent to help small businesses grow.

“We need investments in small businesses,” he said. “We need investments in startups, and that money is found by freeing up that capital that’s sitting tied up through taxation.”

Hemingway, who hopes to unseat Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, said the state has seen a proliferation of red tape in the last decade, with 120 new taxes and fees introduced. New Hampshire used to lead the country, he said, but now, the state struggles to retain young people or to entice innovative technology companies to move within its borders.

“We have been, as a state, sort of stuck in this malaise since, you know, 2004, 2005, just sort of stuck here,” Hemingway said. “Nothing changes in Concord, nothing changes in our economy.”

Hemingway said his proposals would close loopholes while also offering predictability to businesses and broadening the tax base, encompassing government and charitable entities into the tax plan.

The restructuring would be revenue neutral, he said, and would offer an exemption to nonprofits that bring in less than $200,000 in revenue.

Hemingway contrasted his ideas with the jobs plan released this week by one of his major opponents in the Republican primary for governor, former defense contracting executive Walt Havenstein.

Havenstein on Tuesday called for a decrease in the tax on corporate profits, coupled with a move to make New Hampshire a right-to-work state and the repeal of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Hemingway called the proposal a “farce,” saying Havenstein’s plan lacks substance, and his promise to restore the “New Hampshire advantage” is a worn-out campaign slogan.

“This is a 1990s solution,” he said. “This is what Steve Merrill ran on. Right? The New Hampshire advantage.”

A 32-year-old father of two, Hemingway was raised in Plymouth and lives in nearby Bristol, where he previously chaired the town’s Budget Committee.

His business background includes starting his own insurance company, Hemingway Insurance Services, as well as a technology firm that developed Web-based training videos for youth soccer coaches.

Hemingway’s latest business ventures drew him into the world of politics.

He founded Digital Acumen, a communications firm specializing in digital media, as well as an online platform for political donations and a political action committee dedicated to electing Republican governors.

Before running for governor himself, Hemingway served as state director for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and ran unsuccessfully to head the New Hampshire GOP.

As part of his platform, Hemingway took a strong stand on the side of personal privacy earlier this year, calling for laws protecting health care information required to be submitted under the Affordable Care Act, personal e-mails and E-ZPass records.

Hemingway also has attacked Hassan’s call for a “high-end, highly regulated” casino, saying he favors spreading 1,600 slot machines among eight existing charity gambling sites and eight other spots.

Hemingway said he opposes the recent 4 cent increase in the state’s gas tax – another measure supported by the governor – and would instead use existing money in the budget to address the state’s infrastructure needs.

“I think that it’s a matter of priorities. I think that we spend a lot of money on a lot of other things that probably could be re-prioritized,” he said.

In the area of health care, Hemingway said he would push to increase competition by eliminating the state’s Certificate of Need Board, which reviews applications for new hospital construction.

He opposes New Hampshire’s recent move to expand Medicaid coverage, an option introduced through President Barack Obama’s health care reform law and approved by the New Hampshire Legislature.

“This is an unsustainable model which we’re doing, and by putting in Medicaid expansion, we’re only increasing that,” he said. “We’re only making that worse.”

Hemingway also opposes new Common Core education standards, another federal program adopted by the state that he said threatens to decrease local control over education. New Hampshire students will enter a global marketplace, he said, and the state should be free to adopt the most rigorous standards it can.

Funding for higher education has been one of the most significant education issues debated in the Legislature over the last four years.

Hassan campaigned in 2012 on a promise to restore state funding for the University System of New Hampshire after it was slashed by a Republican-led House and Senate.

Lawmakers heeded the governor’s call, passing a two-year budget that restored much of the funding in exchange for a freeze on in-state tuition.

While Republicans previously led the charge to cut education funding, Hemingway said he would move cautiously before making any recommendations to increase or decrease spending on the state’s universities and community colleges.

Hemingway said he would take the same approach across all areas of state government.

“If we find a place where there’s inefficiencies, we’re going to demand efficiency. We’re going to look for ways to implement technology at a higher level in our state government to improve efficiencies. We’re going to look for ways where we can use human capital to increase efficiencies. I think that there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to do just that,” he said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).