NHDP - Telegraph Editorial: Taxes, ice cream and the Old Man

Key Point: "It’s good to be skeptical of the strings that always seem to accompany federal money, but expanding Medicaid does not take us down the road to an income tax. To suggest that it does is a scare tactic motivated by a “kill-Obamacare-at-all-costs” mentality perpetuated by some elements of the GOP. We can think of several alternative funding sources that lawmakers would tap into before an income tax bill ever made it to the governor’s desk, including appealing to the state’s schoolchildren to send in their allowance and ice cream money."


Nashua Telegraph Editorial: Taxes, ice cream and the Old Man
 
It was probably inevitable that someone would whip out New Hampshire’s favorite bugaboo – the specter of an income tax – to argue against expanding Medicaid in the state.
 
It happened last week at a hearing at which doctors, nurses and hospital representatives, among others, urged a legislative committee studying the issue to expand the program and accept the federal money.
 
As part of the Affordable Care Act, states that expand Medicaid coverage to cover poor adults younger than 65 would receive full federal reimbursement for the first three years and 90 percent a year after that. New Hampshire stands to receive about $2.4 billion over seven years if lawmakers expand the program, which passed the House but was roadblocked in the Senate in the last legislative session. An estimated 49,000 adults would be covered.
 
But skeptics say the state is eventually going to be on the hook for some of the program’s cost, which is true.
 
“I don’t know where we’re going to come up with the money,” state Rep. Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, told the committee. “This may be the camel’s nose under the tent to an income tax.”
 
It’s good to be skeptical of the strings that always seem to accompany federal money, but expanding Medicaid does not take us down the road to an income tax. To suggest that it does is a scare tactic motivated by a “kill-Obamacare-at-all-costs” mentality perpetuated by some elements of the GOP.
 
We can think of several alternative funding sources that lawmakers would tap into before an income tax bill ever made it to the governor’s desk, including appealing to the state’s schoolchildren to send in their allowance and ice cream money.
 
We’re kidding about that, of course, but lawmakers have a long history of employing all manner of creative ways to avoid solutions that might involve an income tax.
 
What Flanagan’s remarks point out is the pervasive New Hampshire mindset that an income tax is somehow tantamount to an economic Ebola virus. It’s hardly that, though it may be a political one. In fact, the surprising thing is that the state hasn’t enacted one already.
 
Think of it this way: If, in 1950 or 1960, you had to bet on which would last longer – New Hampshire’s status as a state without an income tax or the Old Man of the Mountain – most of us would have bet on the Old Man. The notion of an income tax, while perhaps not desirable, wouldn’t have seemed like that big a deal. Not having one, though, is now part of the Granite State mystique.
 
Well, the Great Stone Face fell from its Cannon Mountain perch 10 years ago, and we’re no closer to an income tax now than we were then.
 
Yet we dub around with risky ventures like casino gambling and call our tax structure the New Hampshire Advantage while our roads and schools – some of them, anyway, if you live in the wrong places – go to pot.
 
While an income tax in the Granite State may be inevitable some day, the political reality is that it’s not going to happen anytime soon – and expanding Medicaid won’t be the catalyst when it does.
 
Rather, the road that expanded Medicaid will take us down is one in which the state’s underclass will be able – many for the first time, perhaps – to get treated for their illnesses somewhere besides an emergency room.
 
In the Live Free or Die state, that might be almost as shocking as passing an income tax.