Whether done by a family sitting around the table with the utility bills and a checkbook or state legislators sitting in a committee room filled with lobbyists, budgeting is about setting priorities. It’s about deciding what we can afford to do, not what we wished we could do.
That’s why New Hampshire residents should be appreciative of the commitment to fiscal responsibility that the Legislature showed in passing a state budget for the next two years.
Unlike the way things work in Washington, where if you want to spend more you simply borrow money from future generations, in Concord our legislators are required to pass a balanced budget. That means that legislators can’t simply put off tough decisions; they need to look into the eyes of individuals, agency heads and special interests who want more money and say, “no,” the same way a parent has to tell a child that the family can’t afford to go to Disney World this year.
The other alternative is raising taxes and fees, which makes New Hampshire less competitive and hampers our ability to grow our economy and create jobs at a time when 40,000 of our friends and neighbors are still looking for work.
Thankfully, the budget plan that the House and Senate will vote on this Wednesday puts jobs and economic growth before spending. It sends a clear message that New Hampshire’s priority is growing the private sector, not state government.
Americans for Prosperity has led efforts against a number of the tax increases included in the budgets proposed by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the state House of Representatives for this reason. The business tax hikes those budgets added would have made us less competitive and made it more expensive for employers to grow and move here. The gas and tobacco tax jumps would have undercut the New Hampshire Advantage and hurt our ability to encourage customers outside of the state to come here to buy their goods, helping our businesses thrive.
Stopping those tax increases is critical to building on the momentum of the past two years’ return to financial responsibility at the state level.
Equally important for the state’s long-term fiscal health is the fact that this budget does not include the expansion of the Medicaid program under Obamacare. While advocates for bringing Obamacare to New Hampshire have talked about all the “free money” from the federal government — as if state taxpayers somehow are not also federal taxpayers — adding tens of thousands of new individuals onto government health care would invite many problems. Among those problems are the long-term implications to our state’s financial health, the increase to private insurance that would ensue, and the dumping of many people from high-quality private insurance to substandard Medicaid, all of which make expansion a bad deal for the Granite State. Removing Obamacare Medicaid expansion from this budget was a critical victory for taxpayers and citizens across the state.
Another major victory in this budget is the fact that the Legislature used reasonable revenue figures and didn’t “cook the books” with the dollars that are coming in. While predicting how the economy will perform 24 months from now is always a crapshoot, the wise budgeting strategy is to take a conservative outlook on spending and not let the desire to grow government drive the estimates. At home, we don’t start spending money and then go to our boss at work and tell him or her that we need a raise because our expenses are greater than our paycheck. We are forced to live with what we’re earning, and state government should do the same.
Is this to say that the proposed budget is perfect? Not at all, but no budget is. This proposal keeps around for another two years the anti-competitive and expensive Certificate of Need process that strangles the free market in health care. At the same time, the budget plan spends the entirety of the $57 million surplus from the current, highly responsible budget and puts none of this extra money into our meager Rainy Day Fund. These shortcomings are an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise outstanding effort.
On balance, this is a budget that makes clear that New Hampshire’s priorities are about growing our economy, creating jobs and keeping our fiscal house in order. Our state went through a difficult time two years ago as the state had to recover from years of financial mismanagement, higher taxes and poor budgeting decisions. This budget reaps the benefits of that hard work and enhances New Hampshire’s position as a national leader for opportunity and economic freedom.
Greg Moore is the New Hampshire state director of Americans for Prosperity. He previously served as the chief of staff for the New Hampshire House of Representatives.