Here’s my column from April’s Brentwood Newsletter (written 4/20/11):
OK, so the budget (HB1 and HB2) has been passed in the House and has been sent on to the Senate. To say it was an eventful week at the State House would be an understatement. Let me start this column by talking about my final vote in favor of HB2.
I made it clear last month that I was opposed to the collective bargaining amendment known as the Kurk Amendment, explaining my reasons for opposing it. In the days leading up to the final vote, Senate President Peter Bragdon told WMUR that not one of the 24 senators was in favor of that amendment.
Knowing that there was little chance of that amendment surviving in the Senate, any vote for or against it would be largely symbolic by the time HB2 came to the floor of the House. I voted for a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would have removed the Kurk Amendment, as did some other Republican members, but that attempt was not successful.
I voted for HB2, because I felt it would not have been productive to vote to kill the whole bill over what was, by then, a symbolic gesture. The budget we passed was fiscally responsible, rolling back almost a third of the irresponsible over-spending from the last four years. We kept our promise to cut spending and not raise taxes. I ran on a platform of limited government, and you can’t get there by over-taxing and over-spending.
So, just how deep were these cuts? That depends on whom you listen to. If you listened to some of the protesters around the State House on the day of the vote, you’d think we were voting on a bill to defund and abolish our entire system of government, creating an apocalyptic wasteland where the poor are thrown into volcanoes to appease the Koch Brothers (who are supposedly financing every Republican-sponsored activity in the country…hey, where’s my check?).
Also, if these budget cuts are “extreme” or “reckless”, as some would have you believe, what does that say about the much larger increases in state spending that preceded them? Increasing state spending and trying to pay for it all by raising taxes and fees during a recession, grabbing one-time handouts from the federal government (aka: your tax dollars), borrowing money from the following year’s budget, and trying to seize privately held assets is what qualifies in my book as extreme and reckless.
Also, do not conflate budget cuts with cuts to essential services. Sure, there are those who will tell you that the former inevitably leads to the latter, but I don’t buy it. Take for example my own household budget. Our household income/revenue has gone down over the last few years by a much larger percentage than the cuts to the budget that we passed in HB2. Yet, we are still able to provide essential services (feeding and clothing the kids, paying the bills, etc.) by making cuts in our grocery shopping choices and entertainment budget (fewer nights out at Applebee’s and the movies) and by swapping my gas-guzzling truck for a used compact SUV, to name a few examples.
Telling a state agency that they will be getting less money than they did last year is not the same thing as ordering that state agency to provide fewer services. The tightening of belts, which is going on in households across the state must also be taking place across all level of our government. If those agency heads can’t make the necessary adjustments to their operating costs, we need to replace them with people who can. Forcing an already overburdened citizenry to continue funding an ever-expanding state budget is something I simply cannot condone.
Some have criticized our recent actions to lower the tax rates on rooms and meals and cigarettes, to cite a couple of examples. The argument being we need to keep the taxes in place to offset the budget cuts. This is a short-sighted solution at best. Sure, you could always raise taxes and see an immediate, short-term increase in revenue, but then what? If simply raising taxes to generate revenue were the answer to a state’s budget woes, California and Illinois would be leading the nation’s economic recovery, and would serve as a blueprint for the other states to follow. Instead, those states are seeing people and businesses pack up and move out for more business-friendly and tax-friendly environments in neighboring states.
Also, taxes such as the cigarette tax are putting a greater share of the burden on a small subset of the population. I don’t think any one group of people should be singled out for additional taxation, or for any special tax benefit. It makes as much sense to me as enacting special taxes on motorcycle riders, stamp collectors, or left-handed people to help boost state revenues.
Reducing the tax burden on the state’s businesses and residents will make New Hampshire a more attractive place to live, work, open a business, and raise our children. We simply can’t get there via short-sighted budget gimmicks, such as those used by previous legislatures.
In one other significant bit of legislative news, the State Senate just passed (on 4/20/11) HB474, the “Right to Work” bill by a veto-proof 18-6 margin. This bill was amended (to remove a previously passed house amendment) and will now go
to Committee of Conference for final resolution [Correction: back to the house for another floor vote] before heading to the governor’s desk.
One quick note before I wrap this up. When sending e-mail to my house e-mail address, if you could include the word BRENTWOOD in the subject line, it would really help me keep track of it so no one’s messages get lost. Thanks.