Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grade A Bunkum

By the time you read this, NH may have a budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It’s also possible that we may not.

The budget process begins with the Governor, who presents his budget to the House and Senate. It contains his priorities, the things he would like to see funded in the next biennium. The House Finance Committee then uses the Governor’s budget as a blueprint for the budget they design. There are hearings where every government agency lists their needs, and public hearings where residents can express their budget priorities. Eventually they finish it and it comes out of committee, and goes to the full House for a vote. After passing it goes to the Senate Finance Committee, where they tinker with it. The House flies blindly, without revenue projections, but the projections are in by the time it gets to the Senate. When they finish tinkering, the bill comes out of committee and goes before the full Senate. If it passes, it goes back to the House, where it is sent to a Committee of Conference, where members of the House and Senate work out their differences, agree to concur, the budget is voted on by both bodies, and then prances off to the Governor’s desk.

This year, the budget process has been a disaster from the very beginning. For the first time in recorded history, the House failed to pass a budget. The creation of a budget became the responsibility of the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee had the same hearings with various government agencies, interested parties, and a public hearing for voters. Once they finished, the committee voted it ought to pass, and then it went to the full Senate for a vote. The Republican Party has control of the Senate, so the votes fell along party lines. The budget went back to the House for concurrence but there was no concurrence to be had, so a Committee of Conference was put together so that both bodies could work out an agreement. They have. The only Democrat on the Committee of Conference was removed when she refused to sign off on the CoC report. The House and the Senate will each have voted on this budget by the time you read this column.

Opinion pieces by the majority party are springing up like mushrooms (and you know what mushrooms grow in) in newspapers around the state. There is much chest thumping about “living within our means, “business tax cuts,” and “job creating.” The writers assume you won’t put two and two together. If the last round of business tax cuts were such a tearing success, why are we running the state as if it were impoverished? They claim the tax cuts will allow businesses to hire more and keep young people here. That’s pure grade A bunkum they’re selling.  

The state fails to invest in higher education, infrastructure, and affordable housing. Even if young people wanted to stay in a state so unwilling to invest in itself, there isn’t any place for them to live. This week there are four and a half pages of help wanted ads in the Conway Sun and 6 apartments for rent. It’s the same all over the state. Rather than wake up and smell the future, thanks to The Pledge we continue to elect people who perpetuate the foolishness that it’s still 1975.The business tax cuts just mean that the burden will continue to be shifted to the homeowner in the form of property tax.

Attaching keno to the full day kindergarten funding is being touted as a “compromise” instead of the poison pill that it really is. The education of our children should not be attached to uncertain gambling revenues, and, again, if those business tax cuts are working so well why is this necessary? A cynical person might wonder if this weren’t the plan all along. Our Trump supporting governor made himself sound human on the campaign trail by touting support for full day kindergarten. If the kenogarten bill fails, he can blame Democrats AND not have to cough up state money for education, something Republicans in this state are profoundly opposed to. It’s a win-win for him.

The Republican Party is fighting an internal war, between the regular old right wing and the far extremist right wing of the party.  The self-styled Freedom Caucus thinks the regular right wing is spending too much money, and doesn’t hurt enough people. The Democrats don’t think the budget spent enough money. The regular right wing probably could have negotiated with the Democrats, to pass a budget, but they didn’t want to, because this isn’t about what’s best for the state. This is about ideological purity, and party loyalty. To negotiate with the Democrats would be seen as weak. They’d be called RINOs. They’d be primaried in their next elections for not being hard core enough. The Republican Party has abdicated its responsibility to NH voters, and chosen ideology over New Hampshire.  

Published as an op-ed in the June 23 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper 

1 comment:

Rocky Gorge said...

No one is more shocked than I ( well, except perhaps the Gov ) that a kindergarten bill actually passed. I believed from the first that it was exactly as you said - a false front showpiece designed to fail in the House, where Democrats could be blamed. But also, above all, where the average voter pays little attention and the House can get away with virtually anything.
That it passed with the keno boat anchor attached is simply amazing. Nice try , Jeb. Some things are just too popular to die.
I do wonder how many voted for it because it enabled keno and how many because they favored kindergarten. We may never know ...