by NH State Senator Harold French |
The proposed state budget created by House and Senate Democrats and vetoed by Governor Sununu increases taxes. It increases spending by an unsustainable 13.2 percent. And it makes promises to local taxpayers that it cannot keep.
The proposed budget includes many things we can all agree on. Increased funding for those with developmental disabilities. Continue the rebuilding of the state’s mental health system and DCYF begun by Republicans in the last legislative session. And restoring education stabilization grants — legislation sponsored my Republican colleague Regina Birdsell.
Like everything in life, the devil is in the details. Take the new education funding formula; crafted in the backrooms without a public hearing and thrown into the budget on the last day. No one should be surprised there are problems with it. Take Laconia for example, today it gets the same in education funding as Goffstown this year. But under the Democrats formula, despite having a median family income of nearly $26,000 more than Laconia, Goffstown’s increase in education funding is double what Laconia would get. For a plan sold as at leveling the field, how does that make any sense?
The budget also creates a $93 million structural deficit for the next budget writers to tackle that will have to be corrected with either budget cuts or tax increases.
For all the talk about how this budget will go to property tax relief, there is nothing in the budget that mandates your town or city using any of this money to reduce taxes. They could just as easily use it to increase spending at the local level.
Through solid financial management of the state and a booming economy, the last budget, written by Republicans, created an unexpected surplus of nearly $200 million. Despite having all that extra money, the Democrats want to increase taxes on everything from internet phone service to pools, to drivers’ licenses, to businesses. $200 million in surplus, more than enough to cover the needs of the state, yet the Democrats insist we need to raise taxes.
The Democrats’ proposed budget not only spends taxpayer dollars recklessly they also proposed significant cuts to critical areas. After loudly proclaiming their support for Senate Bill 11, which made significant strides in addressing the mental health crisis, they quietly cut it by 40 percent in the budget. So too with addressing the high cost of a college education; they cut the Governor’s Scholarship Program by 60 percent.
This Democratic legislature increased business tax, harming our state and our district’s small business owners and driving entrepreneurs and good-paying jobs to surrounding states. How can we expect to maintain low poverty rates and the second-lowest unemployment rate if we encourage jobs to go somewhere else?
New Hampshire has worked hard to cultivate a strong economy that creates good-paying jobs for all our friends and neighbors. That strong economy also generates the revenues to make sure we take care of those who need it the most. Increasing taxes and putting needless, burdensome regulations that do nothing to benefit either the workers or the consumers will jeopardize all this growth. Our state was the last in New England to come out of the great recession in terms of jobs; now, we are the strongest economy in the region. We can not put that at risk.
In an act of bipartisanship and compromise, Governor Sununu was willing to give up several of his own priorities such as the student loan repayment program and a revived school building aid program, in the hopes of getting a budget on which everyone could agree. The Democratic Legislature did not even give it serious consideration, instead sending a budget full of last-minute additions like increasing the smoking age to 21 and taxpayer funding of abortions, to his desk, fully expecting him to use his veto.
My Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate need to come to the negotiating table to create a truly bipartisan and sustainable budget that works for the people of New Hampshire. As your state senator, I promised that every vote I took would be to make New Hampshire a better place to live and work. And to support those who need our help while also being respectful of the taxpayers’ dollar. That is why I could not support the state budget proposed by the Democrats and fully support the governor’s veto.
Harold French is a Republican State Senator from Franklin, New Hampshire (District 7)