The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted Thursday (March 11) to repeal the controversial new tax on campgrounds. The strong 202-125 vote came over the opposition of House Democratic leaders and would add an estimated $2.5 million a year hole to the growing state budget deficit, according to the Nashua Telegraph.

Legislative budget writers added campground users as subject to the 9% tax on hotel rooms and restaurant meals in crafting the 2010-11 spending plan.

In 1999, the Legislature had added rental cars to the levy.

Rep. Herbert Richardson, R-Lancaster, said the campground tax threatened to devastate the North Country wracked by the closure of paper mills and growing job losses during the recession.

“Are these people entitled to a vacation in tax-free New Hampshire? I say they are,” Richardson said. “Send a message that New Hampshire loves campers.”

Supporters argued some neighboring states tax campgrounds.

They also stressed New Hampshire’s levy was proportional as a small cost gets added to a small tent user while the owner of a luxury recreational vehicle pays much more.

“If we repeal this now, this money will not come in,” said Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon.

Revenue Commissioner Kevin Clougherty reduced by nearly half what the state expects to get from the tax because so many defined as campers reside year-round and are exempt from the tax.

Losing the tax would force lawmakers to make even deeper cuts to human service programs, warned Rep. Robert Walsh, D-Manchester.

But Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, said the tax is not worth the money coming in for an $11 billion two-year budget.

“I don’t believe any kind of tax generating so little money is worth the black eye it gives the state or the cost to collect it,” Vaillancourt said.

The bill (HB 1445) heads to the state Senate that on Wednesday voted to table its own bill (SB 474) to repeal the tax.

Senate Democratic leaders wanted to set aside its own bill and consider the topic when it works later this spring on a global plan to erase at least a $140 million budget deficit. The Senate on a party-line vote agreed, 14-10, with all Republicans opposing the delay.

Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, made the same request of the House – to table its bill.

“We are committed to making sure we have a balanced budget, and it would be appropriate to consider as a package all of the cuts and other adjustments we are proposing,” Smith said.

But the House voted, 171-153, against tabling the bill and moments later the House passed it overwhelmingly.

The chairman of the Republican State Committee praised the move. “The New Hampshire House has confirmed how misguided Governor Lynch was when he approved the Democrats’ irresponsible budget and reckless tax hikes,” said former Gov. John H. Sununu. “By repealing the same campground tax that they approved only a few months ago, House Democrats have demonstrated that their party is incapable of effectively governing New Hampshire.”