New Hampshire Hits a Decision Point

[Editor’s Note: The issues outlined in this editorial have particular relevance to the state’s lake communities. Will the new majority in Concord increase funding for milfoil control, water safety and environmental protection of state lakes while under pressure to cut all spending? Or will even more costs be forced on towns like Ossipee and Freedom? This article begins the discussion].

Concord — November 14, 2010 — At dusk, not long ago, with the State House in view, a woman and two young children tramped across a field along the Merrimack River and headed into the woods. They were carrying sleeping bags.

The social safety net has been unraveling for years, but lawmakers in the next session of the Legislature could tear gaping holes in it to balance the budget. This winter, New Hampshire will get only half the federal money it received last year to help the poor heat their homes. The mental health system is emaciated. Food pantry supplies are inadequate. The local waiting list for low-income housing is 600 applicants long. Meanwhile, the state faces a general fund budget deficit of nearly $700 million, by one reliable estimate.

Gov. John Lynch, who asked state department heads to prepare a budget 5 percent lower than their current one for the next biennium, believes that he can balance the books without making draconian cuts. If the economy picks up, he may be right. But for the first time as governor, Lynch won’t be in the driver’s seat. Republicans in the House and Senate enjoy a veto-proof majority. Many of them want not just to cut spending but also to lower taxes – which means cutting spending even more. There is no desire on the part of the governor, or Republicans, to raise more revenue.

Most state agencies have suffered from years of budget cuts. Finding efficiencies and cutting waste won’t begin to be enough to balance the budget. Some programs can’t be eliminated without losing federal funds that match or multiply the state’s contribution. So unless revenue is increased, whole programs or agencies may have to go. Every cut will have consequences for those in need of services. But those needs will not disappear – the responsibility for meeting them will simply be downshifted.

It’s time for New Hampshire lawmakers and citizens to decide what they want their government to be and do. If they are not willing to pay to have all they want, they must put their priorities in order. Where do they rank things like public safety, good roads, environmental quality, public education and social services? How much will reduced spending reduce the state’s quality of life?

Republicans have mentioned a wealth of potential cuts. They include making state employees pay a bigger share of their pension costs and requiring them to work longer to receive full benefits; postponing or eliminating a scheduled $140 million increase in state education funding and amending the Constitution to allow state education aid to go only to needy communities; and reducing state support for higher education.

Health and Human Services, the state’s biggest agency, is once again a target. There is talk of seeking a federal waiver to make it harder for needy residents to qualify for Medicaid. That means a reduction in services and greater pressure on local welfare offices, jails, prisons, police departments, hospitals, churches and local taxpayers.

Republican lawmakers have a new crop of ideologues and firebrands in their ranks. They will be under great pressure to make cuts that diminish the quality of life for those receiving state help and shift more of the cost of governing to property taxpayers. Before cheering state budget cuts, those taxpayers should consider what it will mean for them.

New Hampshire Hits a Decision Point

12 thoughts on “New Hampshire Hits a Decision Point

  • November 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm
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    There is no time like today to start this conversation. What did all our parents, aunts and uncles, and friend’s parents have while we grew up? And what was there waiting for us apon completing whatever level of educational path we chose? J-O-B-S!
    The poor will suffer as they always have but the numbers have increased -and we might know some by name. Education could suffer if we choose to compare it to some idealist plateau, but a class with 30 students never bothered our public school rooms in the 60’s when disipline was applied. But then again, we treat everything so liberally don’t we?

    Infrastructure may suffer but what of the make busy dollars from the new proposed $600 Billion and other attempts to spend us out of the pit? Give us a break/broken!

    Yes, our beloved lake will take a hit; but we must be Vigilant on every front, but We The People should look at the real matters of job loss & home loss, broken families & being poor with no job, drug addiction & no jobs, low paying jobs & problems in general. I tell you all, if you have no job, a low wage, or 2 low wage jobs you have a nation a mere shadow of what thrived in the 60’s. You can’t make 1+1=5 not even with the new math.

  • November 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm
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    Steve, I’m not sure I understand what you are recommending as the answer to the article’s question, or what is your solution to this problem. On one extreme, government could raise taxes and deficits and spend trillions in an attempt to stimulate the economy into recovery (and jobs) — we’re now seeing how well that works. The other extreme would be to cut taxes to zero, repeal all regulations, terminate all government services, and let the free market and private enterprise fix everything. I seriously doubt that would work, either.

    Somewhere, in the middle of these two extremes, is the likely solution. The “devil” is in the details — exactly which regulations should be removed and which government services should be terminated, to calculate how much tax revenue would be required, to “nudge” the economy back into high gear while preserving some level of quality of life?

    Which services and programs mentioned in the article do you think are absolutely necessary, and which ones should be cut or eliminated? Since your focus seems to be on (good) jobs, can you predict how many jobs would be created by cutting or eliminating each service or program on your list? These are tough questions to answer and difficult, complex problems to solve.

    This is exactly what our legislators have to agree on in order to make the changes we need. It would help if we, the taxpayers, could make clear recommendations to our legislators on what we think they should change. As we see what changes the government makes , then we citizens can mobilize to provide some of the canceled services such as providing food and clothing to the homeless, controlling milfoil in our lake, and helping our local governments “do more with less” through volunteer efforts.

    Our government representatives are just people — like us. Their job is to represent us. It is our responsibility to give them clear guidance on what we want them to do — not just scream “Fix It!” or “More Jobs!” There are many approaches to “fixing it” and “making more jobs” and just as many citizens in favor of each approach. An informed discussion, full of supporting facts and without slogans and rhetoric, would be a good start to developing successful solutions to our current problems.

  • November 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm
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    Let me remind you all, this article is coming from the Concord Monitor, the most liberal news paper in the state! Certainly starting its attack on the Republican majority.

  • November 15, 2010 at 10:32 am
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    No matter whether it is a conservative or a liberal perspective, our taxes will once again sky rocket. People on fixed incomes who built this amazing country will be taxed out of their waterfront homes. Sadly, there are few people to replace them. So property values go down, taxes go up. Whether it is the technological revolution or NAFTA that caused the loss of good paying jobs, our so called leaders can’t seem to figure out what to do. So apparently begging China to behave is what we are now doing. Very sad.

  • November 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm
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    To the Concord Monitor:
    “Before cheering state budget cuts, those taxpayers should consider what it will mean for them.” Since we are in editorial mode let me share an opinion that I believe represents what the cuts mean to taxpayers. First, the cuts may provide a sense of hope, to the taxpayer, that the quality of life that they have worked so hard to provide for their family may have a chance survive. Maybe, just maybe, the taxpayers want to be able to recognize the fruits of their labor rather than funding inefficient government programs that squander away millions of taxpayers dollars each year under the guise of “helping out” the unfortunate.

    Secondly, the idea that government employees may have to pay more into their pension and work longer to realize benefits might just make the taxpayer want to do back flips. I know many taxpayers who may even want to go a few steps further like eliminate pensions and unions altogether and mandate the same retirement age that the government sets for the private sector.

    There is no desire on the part of the governor, or Republicans, to raise more revenue.
    Guess what, there is no desire from the taxpayers to want to pay more in taxes to the government!!!!

    “It’s time for New Hampshire lawmakers and citizens to decide what they want their government to be and do.” Yes, it is time and many taxpayers want the government to do less not more. Many taxpayers are realizing the government is not the solution to our problems ,but often the cause. Many taxpayers want the government to just abide by the constitution and leave them alone.

    As far as the woman and two children traipsing off into the woods with sleeping bags, did you just watch them march into the woods or where you so distraught you ran over to them and offered food and shelter on your own dime???? Or was it easier to look at the taxpayers and say…you rich working folks should take care of them !!!!

  • November 18, 2010 at 12:33 am
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    The answer or should I say the problem is the lack of income which comes into the state which supports in part the abatement of algae and helps preserve other needed projects around the nation. We can’t get blood from a rock, nor money from a person in the form of taxation who makes little taxable income.
    Its a money flow problem and now it is affecting our lake and creeping closer to each every one of us.
    I went way off base to try to bring in the concept of jobs and how it relates to the complaint of “now what are we going to do about lack of funding?” The fed is going to throw $600Bill into the mix, I’m not getting political here, but all that will do is flood the market with cash and raise prices.
    Just trying to face the realities of “Now what?”

  • November 18, 2010 at 12:42 am
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    What will it take to make people realize we have to put people back to work at American factories, businesses and indoing so, not have the roadblocks which drive businesses and manufacturing overseas. For how much longer are we going to sing the praises of Globalism? As conservative as I am, I try never to buy imports and that includes my food. None of you want to speak about it. Taboo? Imagine the ability of this country, what we could accomplish, how we could keep Lake Ossipee clean with a lower unemployment rate at the local, state and national level. Just Imagine, Brother.

  • November 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm
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    Steve,
    “the problem is the lack of income which comes into the state ”
    In general I believe the state and federal governments collect enough income already. The root cause, in my opinion, of all gov. budget problems, is the management of the tax revenue. And at the root of that is the politician. Our “leaders” are quite disconnected from the working middle class. Most people don’t know that most of our senators and congressmen (dem and repub) are millionaires. In general, last year their incomes increased some 16% while many Americans lost jobs and working Americans salaries remained flat. Politicians don’t lead the kind of life the hardworking middle-class leads. With the perks and benefits they give themselves they are truly in a class by themselves.
    And in order to maintain the lifestyle they have achieved they will cater to programs and spending that will ensure it’s longevity. And those are the honest politicians.
    As an example, Deval Patrick just won the election in Mass and first on his agenda is to provide education and licenses for immigrants (legal or not). I can not see how this effort that will help the currently unemployed or the struggling, hardworking family. But I do see how it will benefit Deval…
    So back to your point about “lack of income”…the money is there but the priority for how it is spent is in the hands of individuals who represent ultimately their own interests.
    We don’t need to ask for more money for gov spending we need to demand more efficiency.

    And I agree, outsourcing jobs to China, Japan, India ect. is toxic at best for our country.

  • November 18, 2010 at 8:58 pm
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    atony: you either have a lot of inside info about “inefficient government programs that squander away millions of taxpayers dollars each year” or you’re just talking a good game. what specifically what you would cut if you were an elected official. specific programs and expenses, atony. what are they?

  • November 19, 2010 at 10:45 am
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    danz,
    Apparently you are one of those individuals who believes our government is either tip-top or you are too lazy to educate yourself on just how wasteful our government is. So I will give you a few examples but do yourself a favor and get educated on what your government is doing. Especially if you vote.

    Medicare wastes more money than any other federal program. Medicare often pays eight times more than other federal agencies for the same drugs and medical supplies. Example: saline solution/ liter $1.02 paid by VA vs. $8.26 paid by Medicare.

    College Funding :Granting loans to Students attending a college where neither exist.

    Redundant Gov programs and agencies: There are 342 economic development programs where many of the functions between the agencies overlap.

    Dept of Defense credit card scandal where certain departments use government funded credit cards for things such as gambling, dance clubs, prostitutes ect.

    These are simple examples that are indicative of our government’s wasteful and abusive demeanor.

    Also, I would reform government with term limits and healthcare and pension benefits. The service these public officials provide does not warrant the lavish perks they extend to themselves.

    Why is this so difficult for people to understand. We should all be screaming if not revolting for government reform.

    Sources: (just in case anyone wants to question) can be found at the US General Accounting Office, GAO-03-298 , GAO-03-268R & testimony before Subcommittee HHS, US Senate, June 12, 2002

  • November 19, 2010 at 10:06 pm
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    atony: let’s clear the air here. first, you don’t know me and have no idea what i think. i asked you a question and you began calling me names, tried to characterize me as some “type” of person you obviously don’t like, and suggested i get “educated” on your kind of “facts.” this says far more about you than me. notwithstanding your lack of social skills, you ducked the question. the editorial was about new hampshire, and my question was which programs and/or expenses would you cut from the new hampshire budget. the new hampshire budget is mostly about education, medication and incarceration – just like every other state budget. what would you cut? specifically. where is the waste? not in generalizations and hot air. specifically. where is new hampshire wasting money that can be saved and used for better purposes or returned to the taxpayers? inquiring minds want to know.

  • November 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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    Oops, sorry! Your “talking a good game comment” kind of through me off.
    I did not realize that you where specifically referring to N.H. But, I find it hard to believe that you might feel the State of N.H. operates any more efficiently than the Federal Gov.
    Your original question, however, is an easy one for me.
    What would I cut from the state budget? Welfare would be top on the list. Any and all entitlement programs I would cut immediately. I would cut Education by 5% and the Health budget in half.
    Now if your are looking for me to be more specific than that, and I know you are, I would say for the sake of this post I am not about to go through the state budget line item by line item to pull out all of the waste. That is what the politicians are supposed to do. What I will do is continue to vote for people that share the understanding that gov at all levels needs to stop growing by employees, by pensions and by overspending.
    Now the fact that you challenge my assertions leads me to the conclusion that you might feel that the State Gov is running “tip-top”. I say the mere fact that the gov is taking more, significantly more money from us is a strong sign that they are not running efficiently. So it sort of goes along the line like this I don’t have to drive my car into a wall at 60 mph to know that it’s going to hurt…

Comments are closed.