For only the sixth time since 2000 CATO has ranked New Hampshire as the second Most Free State in the US. We were number one all the other times. Unfortunately, this is the third year in a row at number two, and while CATO examines that there is still plenty of good news (not that being #2 isn’t good news).
We have some work to do to get back to number one. But before we get to that let’s talk about this
Watch the first two minutes of this video and you’ll find that even being stuck at number two, New Hampshire had the most overall improvements in liberty than any other state. We also see from their report that net migration is up 2.9% while personal income growth is up almost 2%. And,
New Hampshire’s state government taxes less than any other state but Alaska. We show a decline in state taxes as a share of adjusted personal income from 3.7 percent in FY 2000 to a projected 3 percent today.
Yes, we have higher than average property taxes but this continues to be a driver of our low overall tax burden,
New Hampshire is.. a highly fiscally decentralized state. Granite Staters have quite a wide choice in local government, with two and a half competing jurisdictions per every 100 square miles. Government debt, consumption, and employment are all much lower than average, and in all these categories we see improvements since 2010.
We often talk about the several states competing for residents, but in New Hampshire, because property taxes create fiscal decentralization, residents or newcomers can weigh a variety of competing factors when choosing where to live with a very short distance from any part of the state.
Competition is good.
It is also why Democrats like Mark Fernald are pushing hard against that competition. They want you to believe that it is unfair: that New Hampshire towns shouldn’t have to compete for residents or their dollars. That the state should impose top-down taxation and then do what?
Decide who gets how much. Hold the power, the keys to the vault. It would also make the legislature a lot more powerful and, will attract more lobbyists to help them decide how to allocate that windfall.
You don’t see too many lobbyists at town meeting unless you mean the local education industrial complex or other government employees pitching for raises or bigger budgets. But that’s exactly the point. They come to you directly for money. You can vote on a secret ballot to tell them to go to hell. That can keep the overall tax burden down and maintain a sort of budget priority-competitive nature from town to town.
Besides, has anyone around here ever been happy with any formulae from the state level that relates to dispensing other people’s money back to the towns?
A state sales or income tax would not be any different unless worse is different.
Property taxes create fiscal decentralization. They force towns to address spending issues (except for education because it takes a school to bankrupt a village). But even there, the price pressure can drive change as long as the fiscal abuse isn’t off-shored to the budget beaches in Concord from with the progressive tax and spenders will then launch assaults on your wallet that will inevitably drag New Hampshire closer to neighboring states that find themselves unable to compete with the New Hampshire Advantage.
Property taxes are visible and beg the question – what the hell are you spending my money on. Sales and income taxes are sneaky. Less inclined to raise any alarms. The crooks can take more without you noticing. That’s why progressives love them.
And they never, ever replace property taxes. They pile on top, and then they all grow up together!
CATO also has a lot to say about licensing and regulations. Some good, some bad, so check that out here.
As for improving freedom, here is what they suggest,
- Fiscal: Local governments need to get a handle on school spending and taxes. State government may be able to help by moving town meetings and local elections to coincide with state elections, boosting turnout and diluting the political power of insiders.
- Regulatory: Review local zoning ordinances, and strike down those that increase the price of new housing beyond that needed to pay for the cost of new infrastructure.
- Personal: Legalize more forms of private gambling that pay out at a higher ratio than the state lottery and therefore, even for anti-gambling advocates, should be considered less exploitative.
Combining town elections with state and federal elections is not an idea I recall hearing before, but I find it intriguing and worthy of more thought and debate.
Zoning is one of the biggest headaches CATO outlines in their full review and worth more analysis.
Legalized gambling is okay just not attached to another Lou D’Allesandro single-source casino state licensed contract bill-palooza. The legisaltive obsession to use the legalization of gaming as a way to fund things needs to stop. Make a decision about the activity and let the marketplace and local towns our counties (and their local boards and delegations, police chiefs, residents, activists, etc.) make their case for or against it like with any other commercial expansion. Whatever “economic activity” the business generates will be taxed under existing law, and if it is indeed the economic boon promised it would add revenue to the “kitty.”
Or don’t. We seem to be doing okay without it.
H/T Aaron Day