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Surplus politics: Cautious, responsible budgeting

January 21. 2018 8:48PM

As president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy and a Union Leader columnist, Charlie Arlinghaus served as New Hampshire’s voice of fiscal caution.

Now that he is commissioner of the state Department of Administrative Services, not much has changed.

It was likely with some trepidation that Arlinghaus reported to the Legislature last week that state business tax revenues were running $30 million ahead of budget projections.

Telling politicians that there’s extra taxpayer money lying around is like ringing Pavlov’s bell. Mouths start watering.

Arlinghaus also pointed out that other revenue streams are falling short of projections. Lawmakers should not rush to spend the business tax windfall. Republican leaders have already urged against a spending spree.

After a one-time increase in state aid for local transportation projects, after two rounds of business tax cuts, and after topping off the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the state should still end the biennium with a healthy surplus. That should be used on one-time expenses, or tax relief.

Hopefully, this will ease Concord’s appetite for higher taxes and fees, whether they be on cars driving through tollbooths, canoes, or paint cans. The state doesn’t need more money.

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