Every so often – perhaps every ten years or so – a state budget comes along for New Hampshire that is transformative. These budgets set a new direction for state government. They reset both expectations for state services and the balance between private and public expenditures. They represent a change in direction.
Ten years ago, when I was NH House Speaker, we had a transformative budget. After four years of rapid and uncontrolled increases in state spending and taxation, party control of the legislature changed. When we Republicans began to put together the next budget, we faced a crisis of over 100 new and increased taxes burdening hard-working New Hampshire families. Despite this wild growth in new taxes under the Democrats, we also faced a structural deficit of state spending exceeding revenues by almost a billion dollars.
The budget that we put together to handle this legacy of governance malpractice was transformative not because of what we did, but because of what we didn’t do. We didn’t continue with new and increased taxes and spending increases. We reduced taxes and spending, and then balanced the budget.
Our budget was transformative because, for the first time in New Hampshire history, a budget decreased spending for both years of the two-year budget cycle. It was transformative not as a budget of dreams; it was a budget to avoid the nightmares of over-spending, over-taxing, and economic stagnation that NH residents see in too many of our sister states. And through an 18 percent reduction in state spending, we achieved that result in such a definitive manner that it has allowed future legislatures to reduce NH taxes since then.
This week the NH House will be presented another transformative budget. It is not a budget that must respond to a crisis; it is a response to opportunities. It is not a budget to avoid a nightmare. It is a budget of dreams.
- It will make a reality the dreams of parents being able to take charge of their children’s education by directing state educational funding.
- It will make a reality the dreams of seniors living on their life savings that they can stay in New Hampshire because they won’t have their interest and dividends taxed.
- It will make a reality the dreams of small business owners that with reduced business taxes they can grow and increase employment.
- It will make a reality the dream of businesses struggling to recapture the state tourist trade that our room and meals taxes be reduced to compete with Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
- By banning the teaching of racial superiority and inferiority in our classrooms, it makes Martin Luther King’s dream that we be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin an educational reality in New Hampshire.
- By banning abortions after 24 weeks and prohibiting state funding of abortions, it brings the dreams of many that the sanctity of life be protected much closer to being a reality in our state.
- By strengthening legislative review and approval of gubernatorial emergency orders up to what is constitutionally permissive, it brings back the reality, and therefore fulfills the dream of our founders that there be appropriate checks and balances between roles and authority of the governor and the NH House and Senate.
The realization of these dreams will transform New Hampshire state government. This transformation will occur because the proposed budget looks optimistically to the future of New Hampshire and sets the stage for a healthy economy and prosperous citizens that will last far into the future.
The budget that I presided over ten years ago as House speaker was transformative because it reversed a multi-year nightmare of budget deficits and ballooning taxes. The budget that will be presented to the NH House for passage this week could be transformative by enacting the dreams of New Hampshire.
This budget will ensure a fiscally responsible state government that promotes parent-directed education, lets seniors live here during their retirements, protects the lives of the unborn, rejects racialist teaching, and resets the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of our government. It is the transformation that I could only dream of ten years ago.