What N.H. needs: truth in spending
The budget process is complicated, and I have always believed in complete transparency; the citizens of New Hampshire deserve to know what is being budgeted and what is being spent. As a government we should be held to the exact same standard we hold ourselves to when budgeting our personal finances. The unfortunate truth of this matter is that the political will, or leadership, of the Democrat majority does not have the same opinion. What are we left with? Here lies the problem.
In June of 2007 the Democratic majority, under the leadership of Gov. John Lynch, passed a 17.5 percent spending increase. This was the largest budget increase in 20 years, and today the new majority is surprised the budget is blowing up despite the glaring warning signs. The Democratic majority would tell you that the budget increased by only 3 percent after you subtracted mandated costs. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric; those “mandated costs” are not new. Every other legislature has had to apply them to their budget. This is nothing more than an excuse for out-of-control state spending.
By constitution in New Hampshire, we have to pass a balanced budget, meaning our revenue projections must meet our spending needs. What the Democratic majority did to meet spending needs was increase revenue projections to accommodate the 17.5 percent increase. We would not do this when managing our personal finances, so why does this principle seem logical when applied to our state finances?
The country as a whole is in an economic downturn, however New Hampshire is faring pretty well. Actual revenues have increased by nearly $43 million over last year, clearly indicating the problem is with spending and not with revenue.
In real numbers this is a spending problem that dances to the tune of $150 million over the biennium (and that is a fiscally conservative estimate that I don’t believe my Democratic colleagues will argue with).
The governor has called for cuts, and if I had a crystal ball my bet is he’s getting ready to ask for another round of “cuts.” These so-called cuts will come before the Legislative Fiscal Committee, a 10-member committee made up of five members of the House of Representatives and five members of the Senate. The intent of the fiscal committee is to provide financial oversight to agencies when the Legislature is not in session. Certainly the intent of the fiscal committee is not to provide a rewrite or a total budget overhaul which, in my opinion, is what we are being asked to do. This is not transparency; this is nothing more than a backdoor tactic to avert public participation, and in the political world to avert negative public opinion.
What is the solution? The Democratic leadership in Concord needs to step up to the plate and offer a supplemental budget clearly outlining the action they plan to take to reduce spending to put us in line with realistic revenue estimates. This should be a no-brainer, however the approach that seems to be moving forward is wait and see how big this deficit gets and then find a revenue source that will fit.
This is not fiscally responsible, it’s not reasonable, it’s not even rational. Like every one of us must do in our personal lives, your government must find a way to live within its means. A supplemental budget is the only answer.
A supplemental budget gives every citizen the right to be heard on this issue and every legislator a vote. The clock is ticking and an economic rebound to support the hefty 17.5 percent spending increase is not on the horizon. I hope that my colleagues in the majority will choose to be forthright with the people of New Hampshire and come forward with a supplemental budget. You, the citizenry of New Hampshire deserve it and now is the time to demand it!
Sen. Ted Gatsas of Manchester is the Republican leader in the New Hampshire Senate and a member of the Legislative Fiscal Committee.