NH Constitution: Part 1, Article 28-A

by Skip

NH Constitution:

[Art.] 28. [Taxes, by Whom Levied.] No subsidy, charge, tax, impost, or duty, shall be established, fixed, laid, or levied, under any pretext whatsoever, without the consent of the people, or their representatives in the legislature, or authority derived from that body.

November 28, 1984

During my second term as a Budget Committee, I started to ask a question of both the Town leaders and of the School Board: “how many programs is the State forcing us to do and for which they send no or not enough money?  Hey, why are we doing all these things for free?  Has anyone ever said “No” (or even bothered)?  Sadly, those that were elected had never even contemplated such a thing and when I pursued the question, no one could even answer the question.  Worse, when I started to dig in my heels on this, I got outvoted when I made a motion – nobody cared and the Selectmen and School Board did not want be bothered.  It was not worth their effort to say “look at the money we can save” and be willing to use the NH Constitution as a defensive shield (which is what this article is supposed to do to protect the taxpayers against predatory politicians).

Thus, I was somewhat cheered when I read this in the Laconia Daily Sun:

First, the set up:

Critics say budget before House will downshift $7M to county taxpayers

The Finance Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives has arguably shunted some $7-million in costs for caring for the elderly to the 10 counties in the next biennium in balancing its version of the 2014-2015 state budget, which will come before the House for a vote next week.

Yep, they took over the House this last election and true to form are trying

In 2008, the Legislature assigned the non-federal share of the cost of youth services to the state while placing the non-federal share of the cost of long-term care on the counties. Counties reimburse the state for expenses for caring for the needy elderly and chronically ill placed in licensed nursing homes — other than the county nursing home — and receiving home or community based care. Acknowledging that the rise in costs of long-term care would outpace those of youth services, the total billings to the counties were capped and the counties were granted another $7.5-million in credits against the caps.

The caps and credits are allocated among the counties according to their shares of expenditures incurred in the prior year and proportion of residents 65 or older enrolled in Medicaid. The higher the amount of the cap, the greater the cost to the counties and the less the cost to the state. The Legislature set the caps at $105-million for 2011 and 2012, $107-million for 2013 and originally was slated to be $109-million for 2014.

Most of this gets to be arcane bookkeeping – I guess when you are throwing around 9 digit figures in government, it is incumbent upon the pols to make it difficult for the ordinary Joe to figure this out and be able reliably track it (short of being an accountant and good with a spreadsheet).   But here’s the ticker from when this splitting of the cost first happened – and how the Counties pushed back:

Soon after the exchange of responsibilities was originally enacted the New Hampshire Association Counties filed suit, alleging that transferring responsibility for long-term care to the counties represented an unfunded mandate in violation of Part I, Article 28-a of the state Constitution. The court upheld the statute, finding that since prior to the enactment of the statute the counties had paid half the non-federal share of long-term care costs and since then had not incurred additional expenditures.

Now, as a taxpayer looking up through three levels of elected Government (local, County, and State; those damned Regional Planning Commissions do rate as a 4th level but are not elected), it doesn’t make a whole lot of practical difference as no matter which level is doing the spending, they are still going to yank it out of my pocket.  However, Article 28-A SHOULD be used to push back against Greedy Politicians (greed for power, vs the capitalist greed for money) to force someone to do something and then given them the good fortune to have to pay for it to boot.

Extra cost of the State downshifting of $600K-700K of additional to my County, Belknap, simply so that the Democrats can more easily balance the State budget and make Maggie “The Red” Hassan look like a financial genius (all the new taxes (or is that resurrected?) being raised to support her to the contrary).  Even a Belknap County Dem, David Huot, is all cool on sticking it to his Laconia constituents as taxes will go up simply for political posturing.  Guess this is one way to get back to that level of spending you wanted, eh Dave?

Back to Article 28-A.  Am hoping that since the Counties were successful the first time that they would go that route again.

And I still wish my Town would have the stones to do the same thing….

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