Republicans have broken their promises
When elected to a super-majority last fall, Republicans in the Legislature promised to cut the state budget without downshifting costs to communities, without raising taxes and without resorting to budget gimmicks. Guess what? Six months into their reign, they’ve broken all three promises. The irresponsible budget passed by the House sends cities and towns a $114 million bill to be paid by property taxpayers. That’s right: For 2012 and 2013, direct state aid to cities and towns in the forms of education funding, environmental grants, highway funds, revenue and tax sharing and retirement contributions is $114 million less for the next two years than in the current biennium.That’s a recklessly big bill to pass on to your property taxes when you were promised no downshifting and no tax increases.While Republicans promised not to increase taxes, they have done just that, raising taxes on both individuals and businesses. They have added what amounts to an income tax on 50,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and public workers. They have used this income tax not to help reduce the retirement system’s unfunded liability, but to avoid the state’s responsibility to support local communities.Along with an income tax on public employees, the Republicans have increased taxes on hospitals. These hospitals, almost all nonprofits, are being asked to pay $115 million in taxes in the next two years. In many communities, hospitals are among the largest employers. This huge tax increase will lead to program closures and job losses. It also will mean higher health care-costs for those with private insurance as hospitals seek to cover their losses imposed by the tax increase.Finally, the Republicans broke their promise not to use gimmicks to balance the budget. Their budget raids the special account in the retirement system that is supposed to cover cost-of-living adjustments and shifts the responsibility for funding retirement benefits to employees. They passed tax decreases on the House floor and then immediately put them “on the table,” a political gimmick.They admitted on the House floor that they were calling a “fee” increase a “tuition” increase just to avoid political damage. Among the most cynical of their tricks is to give businesses a large tax exemption, but to not have it go into effect in the next budget. Rather, this exemption becomes effective one day after the end of the coming biennium, leaving it to the next Legislature to deal with the budget hole.Republicans won the majority with promises of fiscal responsibility and integrity. Too bad they broke those promises so soon. Voters are smart, however. They know this budget is too extreme for New Hampshire. They won’t fall for this again next year.State Rep. Terie Norelli is the House Democratic leader.