MANCHESTER – A bid by aldermen to keep a proposed tax cap off the November ballot was tossed out by Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge James D. O’Neill III.
O’Neill did not rule on the merits of the appeal, which alleged the charter amendment would violate the New Hampshire Constitution and the general laws of the state.
Instead, O’Neill said the aldermen’s meeting with the city solicitor, in which a “consensus” was reached about the appeal in nonpublic session, violated the state right-to-know law and thus the litigation was not properly before the court. As a result, the judge granted the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition’s motion to dismiss.
Tax cap backer Mayor Frank Guinta praised the judge’s ruling and issued a statement criticizing aldermen for trying to keep city residents from being able to vote on the spending cap.
“Moving forward, I hope the aldermen that have done everything in their power to derail a spending cap now allow the people (to) decide on Election Day,” said Guinta.
Alderman-at-Large Mike Lopez said: “The judge ruled that’s it. … The people will vote on it.” Lopez said he looks forward to a vigorous education program regarding the impact of a tax cap. “Anytime they’re ready to debate the issues, we’ll do it,” said Lopez.
As for supporting the cap, Lopez said: “I haven’t completely made up my mind.” But he then said: “Look at California.”
As for the necessity of an official tax cap on budgets, he said: “We’ve been able to stay under a tax cap.”
Mike Biundo, who headed the tax cap movement until he resigned to serve as Guinta’s congressional campaign chairman, said he’s confident about the amendment’s passage in Manchester. Given the 4,000 signatures the coalition obtained to get the charter amendment on the ballot, Biundo said: “I think the community is very much behind our movement.”
Six communities — Nashua, Franklin, Dover, Laconia, Rochester and Derry — have tax caps. Biundo said they work and the coalition will continue its efforts to get them in place throughout New Hampshire.
The coalition did not appeal a Merrimack County Superior Court judge’s March ruling that a proposed tax cap in Concord would be in violation of state law and unconstitutional, but Biundo said the coalition is working on legislation to address those issues.