It's still called 'downshifting'



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To the editor:I'd like to respond to Rep. D.J. Bettencourt's article giving us his definition of "downshifting" ("Downshifting: What it is and what it isn't," June 17-30 NHBR). His explanation -- which, since he is the majority leader of the New Hampshire House, I assume is the official Republican explanation -- is an example of either (1) a total failure to understand the state's financial situation or (2) a deliberate attempt to bamboozle your readers or (3) both.As any local elected official -- county or municipal -- will tell you, downshifting occurs whenever the state fails to fund existing programs at their existing levels. Sending "fewer funds" to local governments is only one example, and Representative Bettencourt tells us that the budget doesn't do that; it holds the cities and towns "harmless" -- in his words -- from any such reduction.What he doesn't say is that when the state cuts existing revenues -- the auto registration surcharge, for example -- it mean less money to local governments for road repairs. The municipality either makes up the difference or the repairs aren't made. When there are cuts to human services, the cost of maintaining existing housing programs, mental health assistance, you activities, Meals on Wheels, neonatal care, etc., comes back to the local governments, or the services are delayed, or in some cases terminated.The very foundation of the budget is a combination of reducing existing revenues and cutting existing programs. The principle is simple: if the state doesn't pay for a service or program, then the counties or municipalities pay or the service isn't provided.The vaunted budget is full of these cuts, and no matter how Representative Bettencourt wants to ignore it or misrepresent it, it is "downshifting," either to the local taxpayer or to the program recipients who will now have to try to make do without services.It's too bad, in a way, that Representative Bettencourt just can't own up to what is really happening because it's no different from what the Legislature -- Republican or Democratic -- has been doing for years: "downshifting" what should be state financial obligations onto the local governments, and then blaming the other guy for the increasing burden on the property owner.Anthony McManus Dover

 

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