By Rep. MARJORIE PORTER, D-Hillsborough
CONCORD – My blood boiled, and I know there was smoke coming out of my ears when I read last week’s headline in my local weekly. “Sununu sends $575K to HD school district,” it said. Sununu? SUNUNU???? Seriously?
Years ago, when I was still considering whether to run for this $100/year job, I had a conversation with a slightly older gentleman friend here in town. Let’s call him Bob. He had long been active in the community, serving on many boards and committees, so I sought him out. I valued his opinion.
“I’m thinking about running for state rep,” I said. “What do you think?”
His quick reply surprised me. “Oh, no,” he said. “You won’t like that. That kind of politics is not nice. I don’t think it’s for you at all.”
Obviously, I didn’t heed his sage advice, but I’ve thought about it often during my almost ten years at the job. Had I been a fool to ignore it?
For the most part, I’ve enjoyed my time in Concord. I’ve found the vast majority of my colleagues to be good, hard-working souls who are honestly trying to make the state a better place. Our ideas of how to accomplish that may be different, but the goal remains the same. Most of the time, we work together to find solutions.
But there have also been times when I was sure Bob was spot on. Especially during the O’Brien years, when the state budget was cut so severely that vital state services, and the citizens they served, were left in crisis. Or in election years, when there seems to be no holds barred when it comes to maligning opposing candidates. All those ugly postcards! Or when listening to a colleague speak form the well in opposition to a bill we’ve worked hard to perfect, as he spews misinformation—dare I say lies?– about what the bill does or does not do.
When I read that headline, Sununu sends $575K to HD district–I knew this was one of those times.
We need to get some facts straight.
It is true that the compromise budget the governor signed in September included the largest increase in education funding in twenty years. And it is true that the Hillsboro-Deering School District received $575,000 last week—and will receive an additional $1,537,000 next year—as a result of that budget.
But for the Governor to claim HE is giving that money to us is—well—just not quite true.
The budget the Governor presented to the legislature in February included very little new education funding. But the budget he vetoed, the Democrats’ budget—and the budget he signed—sure did.
House Democrats met together soon after the New Year to set our priorities for the coming term. We’d just come off an election cycle, when we had spent a lot of time meeting with voters, asking what issues they felt were the most important, and listening to what they had to say. Without a doubt, the most pressing issues for voters were education funding and property tax relief.
We made those two issues our top priorities.
I know the members of the House Finance Committee kept those priorities uppermost in their minds when they created the House budget. They worked long and hard to make the numbers work. The House approved the budget, which at that time included more than $150 million in increased education funding, and $60 million in municipal aid.
That budget went on to the Senate. The Senate modified it some, as is their right, but kept the focus on education funding and municipal aid, among others, and the Committee of Conference was able to agree on a compromise which included $138 million in increased aid to schools, and $40 million to cities and towns.
That’s the budget we sent to the Governor, and that’s the budget he vetoed.
All during the time the House and Senate were working to craft the budget, the Governor was bragging about all the bills he would veto. He called us names like “stupid” and our ideas “extreme.” He said municipal aid was a “bad idea” and “failed policy.” He said “Not everyone can get the Ferrari they want” when talking about our increase in education aid. And he dragged his feet when it came to negotiations during the long summer of the continuing resolution.
When it came right down to the end, the budget we finally all agreed to was pretty much the same budget that had been vetoed in June, with one major exception—the Governor kept his business tax cuts.
I know how determined House and Senate Democrats were to make sure this budget included significant increases in education funding and municipal aid. I know how hard our finance teams worked to make a balanced budget including these increases.
I know how long and hard our negotiating teams fought to make sure this funding remained in the final budget. I know the long hours and late nights they kept.
When the House and Senate met on September 25 to vote on the final compromise, there was a lot of Kumbaya and handshakes. Good friends all, Democrats and Republicans, and our buddy Governor Sununu.
So when the Governor later went to towns and cities around the state, making a big splash, handing out over-sized checks with his over-sized signature prominent on the bottom right, and when my hometown newspaper runs a headline giving him all the credit when very little was his due–well, my blood boils and smoke comes out of my ears.
And I think maybe Bob was right.
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