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Report: Supermajority Vote Could Have Unintended Consequences for NH

March 15, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire state representatives are expected to vote on a constitutional amendment this week meant to change the way tax increases or fees are approved, by requiring a super-majority. That would mean three-fifths of both the House and of the Senate would have to approve any changes before any tax or fee increase could pass.

While proponents of the amendment say the measure would ensure that a broad consensus be reached among legislators before any increases could happen, a new report from The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institutes indicates that it could have just the opposite effect.

Jeff McLynch, the executive director of the Institute, cautions that similar measures elsewhere have not worked quite as advertised.

"What you've seen in states like California that have had these sorts of restrictions in place, is that it really empowers a very small group of legislators to be able to drag their heels in effect."

He says another consequence of requiring the super-majority to pass tax increases could be that the legislature will resort to quick fixes, or gimmicks that may work as a Band-Aid to fix budget shortfalls today, only to be forced to deal with the problem again down the road.

"Arizona is a great example; they have a super-majority requirement for any tax increase, and just this past year they had to sell off a variety of state buildings, and are now leasing those buildings back. So while that generated additional revenue in the short run, they are going to be paying leasing costs for years to come."

McLynch says that the super-majority requirement would give control over any number of important priorities to a minority of the legislature, which could delay or stop consideration of critical legislation, such as the state budget.

The brief, "Proposed Supermajority Requirement to Increase Taxes at Odds with Sound Fiscal Policy," is available at
www.nhfpi.org


Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH