News   |  Excerpts from Concord Monitor Article march 8, 2010

Excerpts from Concord Monitor Article march 8, 2010

written by Shira Schoenberg

It looks like a campaign. It feels like a campaign. And though it isn’t a campaign, it could become one.
Andy Sanborn, owner of The Draft, a Concord sports bar, has been traveling across the state crusading against the so-called LLC tax. Though Sanborn insists the tax is a nonpartisan issue, many of his speeches have been before Republican groups. The 2008 state Senate candidate – he lost a close race to incumbent Sen. Harold Janeway – is leaving the door wide open for another run this year.
“If (legislators) don’t deal with jobs and business, I’m in,” said Sanborn, of Henniker. “If they don’t start taking care of unemployment, I will run.”

Judging by his audience at recent events, Sanborn is building support.
“His whole demeanor, how he’s handled himself, he’s been very fair with this, been able to step back and take a look at it as a resident of New Hampshire, as a small-business owner who really cares about what’s going on,” said JP Marzullo, a Deering selectman and chairman of the Contoocook Valley Republican Committee. “I think it would be terrific if he ran.”

Marzullo, who is running for state representative, heard Sanborn testify at the State House and invited him to speak at a Republican committee meeting in Hillsboro on Wednesday. He said Sanborn has done a good job keeping business people informed throughout the debate.

During last-minute budget deliberations in June, the Legislature extended the state’s interest and dividends tax to distributions from limited liability companies. Revenue Commissioner Kevin Clougherty said it was a way to close a loophole that resulted in LLCs being taxed differently from corporations. A committee of conference trying to reconcile the House and Senate budgets was looking for revenue, and the LLC tax was expected to bring in $15 million a year.

In early December, as the Department of Revenue Administration was developing the rules for the tax, business owners started looking at it more closely. Businesses said they would be unfairly hurt by the tax, and Republican leaders took to calling it a “job-killing income tax” on small business owners. The LLC tax was a key issue in a recent state Senate special election, which was won by Republican David Boutin, who opposed it. Several efforts are under way in the Legislature to repeal the tax, an effort that Gov. John Lynch said Friday he now supports. The Senate Ways and Means Committee this week approved a repeal bill, which must still be passed by the Senate and House.

In mid-December, when more than 200 people turned out to protest the tax at a Department of Revenue rules hearing in Concord, Sanborn spoke and received a standing ovation. “You don’t care that people want a job, want to succeed,” Sanborn told department officials. “The rules say New Hampshire penalizes your success, so don’t come here.”

Sanborn talked about the sacrifices small business owners make. “You’re trying to squeeze the remaining blood from the stone,” Sanborn told Clougherty. “Frankly, it appears that you’re intending to punish the American dream.”

Sanborn himself owns several LLCs – The Draft, and at least three real estate acquisition and development companies, according to filings with the secretary of state. (Sanborn will not say how many companies he owns, though he did say he also runs a manufacturing company.) When someone told him about the tax, “I read the rules, investigated, learned the issue so I could communicate reasonably and rationally,” Sanborn said.

Since then, Sanborn has been speaking to Rotary clubs, Republican clubs, chambers of commerce and at public hearings opposing the tax. He’s been to Lebanon, Grantham, Plymouth, Nashua, Rye, Keene, Hanover and elsewhere. Often, his wife, Laurie, accompanies him. In his hour-long forum in Hillsboro, Sanborn explained the complex ideas behind the tax in clear layman’s terms. He took every question from the 40-person audience and stayed to chat until the last person was gone. Sanborn talked about the history of business taxes, and where the LLC tax bills are in the Legislature today.
His message: the tax is a significant hit to small businesses, its retroactive application to 2009 could be unconstitutional, it encourages businesses to be average, and business owners must band together to get it repealed.

“Each of you can e-mail your state senator and representative and tell them this economy-destroying, job-killing tax has to stop,” Sanborn told the jeans-and-workboots crowd in Hillsboro.
In Concord, before a recent press conference opposing the tax, Sanborn used a different analogy when talking to business owners. “Politics has always been like sex – no one wants to talk about it,” Sanborn said. “We can no longer not talk about it. We’re being taxed.”

Sanborn portrays himself as a voice for small business. “Like all of us, I just want to create jobs,” Sanborn told the Concord business owners. “The Legislature’s not doing anything to help.”
And business owners who meet him through his events say they identify with him. “He’d be a great representative for small businesses,” said Jane Keefe of Auburn, whose father owns a real estate company. “Andy seems articulate, polite, exactly what we need to express our dissatisfaction and let the Legislature know taxes are not the New Hampshire way.”

Sanborn also understands the political theater involved with a campaign. At the Concord press conference, he gathered some of the staunchest opponents of the tax – former Republican state senator Bob Clegg, former revenue commissioner Phil Blatsos and Tom Thomson, son of former governor Meldrim Thomson. Afterward, Sanborn led business owners to deliver a stack of anti-LLC tax petitions to Lynch’s office.

Jarrod Ean-Dixon, a friend of Sanborn’s who owns a bookkeeping business, supported Sanborn’s last run for state Senate, and said he would support him again. “He has a pretty common-sense way he explains things that takes the complexity out of it and lets you know what’s going on,” Ean-Dixon said.
Joanne Devine, who owns a health care business in Hillsboro, put it simply: “Andy is our hope,” she said, noting his belief in less government and lower taxes.

If Sanborn runs, his platform will likely focus on helping the unemployed by promoting the business climate. “We need to expand the economic base,” Sanborn said in an interview. “Create opportunity so anyone can start a company.”

The government, he said, should get out of any business that can be done privately. “If you see it in the yellow pages, government shouldn’t be doing it,” he said. Sanborn favors giving tax credits and incentives to companies that create new jobs or move into the state.

Locally, Sanborn recently united Concord’s downtown restaurant owners to ask city officials to change the timing of overnight parking bans.

If Sanborn runs, he will likely face a rematch against Janeway, a Democrat from Webster, though Janeway has not said whether he is running again. In 2008, Janeway held on to the seat by narrowly beating Sanborn, 14,153 to 13,076 votes.

Sanborn has stayed in touch with Republican leaders and groups – he worked with state Sen. Jeb Bradley and Clegg on the LLC tax issue. He hosted a state of the union watch party at The Draft with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Clegg, who runs the Small Business and Small Industry Association, describes Sanborn as an “up and coming leader.”

Rich Ashooh, a vice president at BAE Systems and a Republican candidate for Congress in the 1st District, said he would “unreservedly” support Sanborn, whom he considers a friend. “Andy did a very solid job in reaching out to businesses who don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what goes on in Concord,” Ashooh said. “The behavior he demonstrated in the LLC tax fight for small business is exactly what I’d like to see in a state Senate candidate.”

State GOP spokesman Ryan Williams called Sanborn a friend of the party. “He’s definitely someone who’s very knowledgeable about the fiscal issues, and he’s been an excellent spokesman against the disastrous job-killing LLC tax,” Williams said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *