The GOP agenda: cut spending, help business
Earlier in January, the new House Republican majority presented our legislative agenda for the upcoming session. We are committed to this comprehensive conservative agenda, and we will deliver on our promise to protect the New Hampshire advantage of low taxes and limited government.Our agenda seeks reform in five major policy areas: government spending and regulations; business and enterprise; retirement reform; education excellence; and personal rights and responsibility. These are not just the priorities of House Republicans but are the priorities of Granite Staters who sent a clear message in November: transform and rehabilitate our economy without new taxes.Our task begins with focusing on spending and the deficit. This Legislature must immediately take on the duty of making some difficult but necessary spending choices. Over the past four years, state government spending increased by 25 percent. This came at a time when other states were cutting their spending by an average of 2 percent. We are now facing the serious consequences.The Legislative Budget Assistant’s office, the official scorekeeper of New Hampshire finances, recently reported that we face an unprecedented deficit of nearly $1 billion. This would require approximately $750 in additional taxes on every man, woman and child in New Hampshire or $3,000 for a working family, if we don’t make reductions in government spending.Some have looked at this problem and suggested that raising taxes is the only way to address this crisis. We oppose this kind of lazy legislating. Our taxpayers and our economy simply cannot afford it. Instead, we will make difficult but responsible spending reductions and find innovative cost savings.Make no mistake, we will not raise taxes or downshift additional costs onto the backs of local taxpayers. Turning our economy around begins with cutting the deficit. But that is not the only part of our strategy for economic growth. We must put out an “open for business” sign on our state and put our citizens back to work by fostering a prosperous, business-friendly atmosphere. We must become a magnet for new, relocating or expanding businesses. We will do this by seeking to cut business taxes and scaling back expensive mandates that have harmed the ability for businesses to thrive.Next, our retirement system is on the brink of insolvency. Rather than point fingers or assign blame for the multibillion-dollar unfunded liability, we must immediately get to work to resolve it. We will do so in a careful, open and respectful manner with regard to our municipal and state employees, retirees and municipalities. We will work with our colleagues in the Senate to address the inequities in the system and enact meaningful and lasting reforms. Education reform has been a top priority for every recent Legislature; but from the failure to fully fund Augenblick to recent parliamentary gimmicks that killed debate on a constitutional amendment, the Legislature has too often failed to deliver. This must change.We will work with Gov. John Lynch and the Senate to craft language to amend the Constitution that will stop the race to the courthouse and end the nonsense and instability of spreadsheet politics. We will not abandon our core belief that parents are the best to decide the education of their children and that competition – whether through vouchers, open enrollment or charter schools – are indispensable to ensuring that students have the tools they need to excel.Finally, we will address some important issues regarding personal rights and social responsibility. To ensure fair and ethical elections, we must require identification to vote. Additionally, this majority believes that parental notification is not a social issue but a common-sense measure that ensures the rights of parents to know what is happening in the lives of their children.Despite the partisan hyperbole of recent days, we appreciate the historic opportunity before us, and we are dedicated to the principles of this agenda. House Republicans are stirred by the challenges we face and are united in our effort to tackle them. We invite our colleagues in the Democratic Party to join us in delivering the good, efficient and affordable government that New Hampshire deserves.State Rep. D.J. Bettencourt of Salem is the House majority leader.