Let your voices be heard

On March 11, beginning at 5 p.m., New Hampshire House Finance Committee members will host a public hearing on the state’s biennium budget at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley’s Amato Center. This is a great opportunity for you, as residents of southern New Hampshire, to share your priorities with state budget writers.

Serving as one of Milford’s state representatives over the past two terms, I’ve had the chance to hear from so many of you. Two of the biggest concerns you’ve shared include property tax relief and state funding for public schools. You’ve also reached out to me about affordable housing, workforce shortages, access to mental health care and substance use disorder treatment, among other issues.

This past week during the House session, we took up a number of bills addressing the top priorities of school funding and property tax relief. Several of them passed and will now go to the House finance committee to be considered, and potentially included in the state budget. I recently spoke on the House floor on one of the key bills. (The bill passed 199-143). I’ve included highlights from my remarks to House colleagues:

House Bill 686 presents us with an opportunity to address Granite Staters’ biggest concerns: property tax relief and state funding for our public schools. Every one of us has heard from our constituents about these two critical issues.

In Milford, property tax rates have gone up over 50 percent in the last 10 years; how many of your incomes have increased 50 percent over that time? I continue to hear from seniors and working families worried that escalating property taxes will force them out of their homes.

Over the last two days, we’ve heard a lot of testimony about the upward pressure forced on local property taxes due to downshifted state costs, including inadequate state public school funding:

• Our current per-pupil education formula has been stagnant for over a decade.

• Reductions in state school stabilization grants continue.

• The moratorium on state school building aid persists.

• The suspension of state contributions to our teacher retirement system remains.

All of these state cuts to public education funding have added up and downshifted a huge cost burden, forcing our constituents to pay for state funding shortfalls via property tax increases.

HB 686 will not only boost per pupil state education funding and strengthen our public schools for all of NH’s children, it will also cut the statewide education property tax rate by 25 percent. Yes, you heard correctly: this bill would provide a property tax cut. This bill would provide additional tax cuts for our most vulnerable seniors by doubling Interest & Dividends exemptions.

HB 686 accomplishes all it sets out to do without robbing another funding source. The bill responsibly funds property tax cuts and education funding by simply extending the existing interest & dividends (I&D) tax to include capital gains at the same low rate. In fact, NH’s I&D rate is the lowest of all our neighboring New England states.

As state representatives, we were elected to represent our constituents’ best interests. HB 686 is our opportunity to address two of their biggest concerns: public school funding and property tax relief. So, let’s put our legislative priorities in line with the people’s priorities.

Let’s stop the pro-property tax legislative practices of recent years and pass this property tax cut bill for the people. Let’s build a NH that works for everyone.

As I shared in my floor speech, as state representatives we were elected to represent you, the citizens of New Hampshire. Continue to speak up and share your concerns with your elected officials. Consider attending the public hearing in Milford on March 11 to voice your priorities in person. I’ll be there with my House Finance Committee colleagues and, as always, I look forward to hearing from you.