Op-Ed: State Budget is ‘Most Cruel’

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Courtesy photo

Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough


This week, the NH House and Senate will be voting on the final version of the state’s two-year budget. This will be my sixth budget vote. I’ve seen some good, and some bad.

But I’ve never seen the likes of this one.

The good budgets use available revenues to maintain and improve the state’s infrastructure, fund services for our most vulnerable citizens at levels that take care of their needs, contribute significantly to the education of our children kindergarten through college, and share resources with cities and towns to relieve our property-tax burden.

The bad ones do a lot of cutting—of business taxes, which reduces revenues, and then of funding for the other things, because we “we don’t have enough revenue, and we simply can’t afford it.”

My first budget, in 2011, was the O’Brien budget. Republicans were in control. The cuts to revenues and services were so severe then it’s taken years for the state to recover. The day of that budget vote saw the largest ever state house protest demonstration. I remember several of my Republican colleagues’ gleeful response as they looked out the window. “We can hear you, but we’re not listening!” 

Governor Lynch refused to sign it. The state’s hospitals and mental health system both sued—and won. Our municipalities are still reeling from the cuts to the state’s contributions to the retirement system. Some state departments still have not been able to catch up.

Things were quite a bit different in 2013. Democrats were the majority in the House, Republicans in the Senate. That budget vote was unprecedented. It passed the unanimously in the Senate, nearly so in the House. It was a decent, bi-partisan budget, with good compromises.

Next time around, Republicans were again in control and the budget cut business tax rates once again. The cuts became controversial when it was determined they would create a major hole in revenues and tie the hands of future budget-writers. The governor vetoed it, but a compromise was finally reached when a trigger to prevent the cuts under certain circumstances was agreed upon.

In 2015, the Republican controlled House was unable to pass a budget, when the so-called Freedom Caucus flexed its muscle. Tax and spending cuts were not steep enough for this Free State crew, and it was left up to the Senate to do the work.

I really try, but I have a hard time understanding why Republicans seem to think cutting business taxes is always the wisest course of action. Our rates are already low. In fact, the conservative Tax Foundation ranks us 6th best in the country. Add to that the fact that, according to the NH Department of Revenue Administration, a whopping 81% of NH businesses do not pay state business taxes and you’ve got to wonder who is benefitting here.

I can sort of understand the push when times are hard but am totally puzzled in the good times. It’s not like we can’t use the revenue to help solve some of the major crises the state is facing—school funding, say, or red-listed bridges. Mental health services, addiction treatment, aid to cities and towns, services for the elderly and disabled…the list is long.

It’s like if I got a nice raise, but then decided to cut back on my hours even though the house needs a new roof, and the kids need new shoes. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I was proud to vote for last term’s budget. It used the resources we had to meet our responsibilities, took care of our most vulnerable, addressed the mental health crisis, returned money to cities and towns to help reduce their expenses, and included the largest increase in education funding in more than 25 years, among many other things. The governor vetoed it due to, of course, issues with the business tax rate cuts, but in the end, a compromise was reached. The governor thought it was so good he personally delivered giant checks to cities and towns.

And then there is this year’s budget.

This budget is by far the most extreme, and the most cruel, of any I have seen so far.

And it has nothing to do with business tax cuts—of course there are some—or with the amount of money being spent, even though there are issues there as well. Instead, it has everything to do with budget-writers breaking a long-standing practice that the budget deals with finances only.

Back in 2017, the extreme right-wing of the Republican caucus flexed its claws, and the House failed to pass its budget. That “Freedom Caucus” is much larger and more powerful now. In order to get this budget passed them, House leadership has included social policy issues that could not pass the House as standalone bills.

This is the same Freedom Caucus who refused to wear masks to House sessions because the government cannot force them to do it. The ones who filed bills to prohibit mandatory vaccinations because that is government overreach.

Yet to appease them, this budget will force a woman to carry to term a dead fetus if she learns of this devastating diagnosis in her 25th week of pregnancy.

To appease them, a 13-year-old incest or rape victim will be forced to endure an invasive medical procedure, and pay for it herself, before she can terminate the pregnancy, even at the earliest stages.

I cannot imagine the agony this will cause these women, and their families.

The same Freedom Caucus pulls out its copy of the Constitution at every possible chance, to spout off about their second amendment rights.

But to appease them, this budget severely limits the first amendment rights of teachers and other government workers by including language prohibiting them from discussing topics this Caucus finds offensive or “divisive.”

And by including the education voucher bill in the budget, taxpayers will be forced to pay for children’s religious education, which is expressly prohibited in Part 2, Article 83 of the state constitution.

The Freedom Caucus. Whose freedom, exactly? The inconsistency and hypocrisy is glaring. Will these radical inclusions stand in the Granite State? After all, we claim to be the Live Free or Die state.

If this budget passes, the long-term repercussions will be great. I fear we may never recover.

InDepthNH.org takes no position on politics, but welcomes diverse opinions. Email nancywestnews@gmail.com

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