CONCORD — It started as a routine bill to create the position of state demographer, but has turned into what some are calling “the Christmas tree,” an omnibus spending bill that doles out nearly $100 million in surplus revenues from a flush state budget.
Among the baubles hung on HB 1817 in a late-night session of the Senate on May 3: nearly $13 million for state employee pay raises; $20 million for red-listed bridges; $44 million to settle a dispute with hospitals over uncompensated care; and another $10 million for the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
The House, with a combination of skepticism and good humor, voted 283-61 Thursday to request a conference with the Senate to reach a compromise on the bill.
I’m not a total scrooge. I can see where there might be some one-off spending that could be resolved. But state employee salary increases are not one-off spending. That’s a number that never really goes away or goes down and using (what a prudent legislator would view as) one-time money to finance that is just stupid.
The method by which these expenditures were advanced is also stupid.
The Senate amendments to the demographer bill were attached in a series of voice votes, with no prior public hearings and no paper trail for voters to follow.
“It’s tragic how the process broke down, to have a supplemental budget that was created without any public input whatsoever,” says Greg Moore, state director for the conservative policy group Americans for Prosperity.
“It shows a complete disregard for the transparency we expect from Concord, but is what we’ve come to expect from Washington, where members of Congress are handed 125-page bills and told to vote on them in 24 hours.”
Way back in the Early Days of the Tea Party, one current State Senator (now running for Congress) was a mere citizen and business owner who, as part and parcel to a grassroots movement, opposed crazy spending priorities and late-night, last minute, legislative gymnastics without any formal process or public input. That was a Democrat majority legislature and so nine years ago.
I have no idea how Sen. Sanborn voted but you get my point? The process exists to serve the citizens, not the politicians. If the process does not allow that money to be spent in this session, then it should be left in the treasury until the proper procedure can be followed.
Was there even any general alert from anyone that this was the plan? No hearings, just amend a handful of bills with new language. Quick, before someone sees!
I don’t think I heard a peep out of anyone. But now that it’s done, the NH House, which rejected many of these spending “priorities” already will get to weigh in.
But how much weight remains to be seen.
I don’t expect them to do much, but I’ll reserve final judgment for after the committee of conference. But I will close with this. The Democrats lived and died by this sort of thing and you can bet your bust of Lenin that if they get control of the legisalture they will over project the crap out of revenues, spend it all and then some, and the only surplus will be the debt they need to cover with money from your pockets.