A wet and cold start to summer has been hard enough on New Hampshire’s campgrounds, but a 9% rooms and meals tax could do them in, said David Edgerly, manager of Great Bay Camping in Newfields.

Edgerly predicted the tax extension proposed in the new state budget – which the Legislature may approve today (June 24) – would cause 20% of the state’s campgrounds to shut down, according to seacoastonline.com, Portsmouth, N.H. If approved, the tax would take effect July 1.

“It will hurt the travel and tourism in this state so bad they don’t even realize it,” said Edgerly, who added campground owners are considering whether to remain open next year if the tax is imposed. “It will hurt us more than anything. It’s not something anyone who goes camping would want.”

The $11.6 billion budget includes a rooms and meals tax imposed on campgrounds for the first time, and also increases the tax rate from 8% to 9%. The budget bill defines “hotel” as sleeping accommodations for rent, including cabins, dormitories, lodges, private clubs, cottages, barracks, camps and now campgrounds.

An income and property tax are already charged to state campgrounds, and local owners say an additional rooms and meals and tax seems like “double-dipping.”

“It’s basically a boarding tax, and we don’t rent a bed or anything like that. We rent land and we already pay taxes on the land,” Edgerly said. “This seems like we are being double taxed for something – triple taxed, almost.”

At Great Bay Camping, campers pay $2,300 per season. Campers have already paid for the season, but Edgerly said, if the tax is approved, they will be billed the additional 9%.

“It was tough enough to get this year’s cost from the campers here because everybody is so tight on money,” Edgerly said.

Joan Latour lives in western Massachusetts and has spent her summers at The Green Gate Camping Area in Exeter since 1985. Latour said imposing the tax would drive visitors out of the privately owned campgrounds in New Hampshire.

“With the economy, people are starting to camp more, and a 9% tax is a lot,” she said.

“This isn’t like a hotel or a motel,” she said of her camper. “It’s mine. I think it’s terrible.”

Rose Knight, a year-round resident at The Green Gate Camping Area, said she can’t understand why she should be taxed for a camper she owns and property she rents at $240 per month.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Knight, who has camped in Exeter, seasonally or year-round, for 20 years.

Theresa Shaw, owner of Tidewater Campground in Hampton, said the impact on campers would be terrible.

“Some of our campers live on a fixed income,” Shaw said. “They own the camper, they pay for the site for the season and now they are going to have to pay a tax to the state for something they already own. It doesn’t make sense to us that they pay a meals and rooms tax on something that they own outright.”

Campground owners said what deepens their concern is that the proposed tax came without warning or an opportunity to voice any opposition.

“I think it just came out of the dark,” Shaw said. “No one had time to fight it because it came at us all at once.”