It is a rare day indeed when a Legislature even considers a law that will limit the power of government, but the current Republican Legislature is promising to go much further. With two constitutional amendments up for a vote this week in both chambers, the Legislature will be considering whether to permanently limit its own power by changing the supreme law of the land.
If CACR 6 passes the Legislature and then in the ballot box, the House and Senate will each need a 3/5th vote to pass any new or increased tax or license fee or to issue new state bonds. The amendment adds a section making it clear that existing bonds and debt service must be paid, a responsible addition that ensures the state’s bond rating will remain among the nation’s highest.
If CACR 13 passes, an income tax will never again haunt the political debate, as any new tax on personal income earned by a natural person would be strictly prohibited by the constitution.
As Gov. Meldrim Thomson said, “Low taxes are the result of low spending.” This wasn’t just a slogan, however; it was literally a rule in political science, and the opposite applies just as well. By limiting the ability to tax in the state Constitution, the People of New Hampshire will be forcing future politicians to heed Gov. Thomson’s words. If taxes are limited by law, lawmakers will be forced to get more creative in how they manage the business of the state in order to keep spending low.
Of course, Democrats and some big-government Republicans are upset about the prospect of “limiting the state’s options for raising revenue” going forward. The only honest response is that limiting state government is the very point of these amendments.
A limited government is one that respects the People’s liberty to manage their own lives and property, pursue the career of their dreams and raise their children as they see fit. Within the last 100 years, government has been encroaching in these areas of people’s lives in the name of “public safety” and “fairness,” and in the meantime, government spending has increased exponentially to pay for the burden of ever-increasing bureaucracy.
For instance, there’s no doubt that government must set a necessary foundation on which individuals and businesses operate and prosper. Unfortunately, government has moved far beyond setting a foundation and it is instead regulating every possible activity to either prevent bad things from happening or favor entrenched industrial interests by law, thus cornering the market. These regulations are costly, both in the manner in which they must be enforced as well as to the people who are forced to comply with them even when it doesn’t make rational sense.
Additionally, there’s no doubt people should have equal access to pursue opportunities in a free society, and government should make sure the law creates an equal playing field that does not favor any one person or group of people over another. However, government has grown so large that its bureaucracies are dedicated to helping one person or group of people over another and attempting to guarantee equal results. Not only do all of these bureaucracies cost money, but they also often perpetuate injustice through preferential treatment and do more harm than good by creating a growing segment of our society dependent on their other peoples’ money, collected by the force of government.
As the Republican Legislature proved this biennium, the state had $1 billion of bloated spending built into its budget that it no longer needed or shouldn’t have been spending in the first place. The Legislature actually did its job and asked the questions: “What is the role of government? What does it mean to have an affordable government?”
With the passage of CACR 6 and CACR 13, the Legislature will be helping to guarantee future generations a limited, affordable government that does only what is essential to keep order and leaves the rest to a free people, just as our founders intended. By passing these two amendments, the People will be agreeing with the Legislature that its budget cuts this session were just the start of a new era in New Hampshire of responsible governing. The People will be ensuring stability in budgeting and taxation, and consequently, a more stable economic environment for job growth, entrepreneurship and prosperity.
Carolyn McKinney is the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire,