The moment of truth comes this week for House Republicans when Speaker Jasper’s budget comes up for a vote.
Overall, Governor Hassan proposed increasing spending from $10.5 billion (fiscal years 2014-2015) to $11.6 billion (fiscal years 2016-2017).
Before we turn (or attempt to turn) to the House budget (which I am going to refer to as the Jasper budget, since he named the members of the budget-writing committee), note that Hassan’s proposed budget breaks out “general funds.” This pie chart depicting the sources of funds for 2015 (July, 2014 – June, 2015) helps explain what “funds” go into New Hampshire’s budget:
So while we often hear that the “general funds” represent State spending, that is not true if the pie chart above, which is from a “nh.gov” website, is accurate. For example, liquor funds must refer to the State’s take from exercising a partial monopoly over liquor sales.
So I don’t think it is accurate to use “general funds” as a metric for whether State spending went up or down.
Apparently, overall the Jasper budget spends less than the Hassan budget, but how much less is a matter of debate.
According to WMUR, Jasper’s top budget writer Neal Kurk says it is $500 million less:
“The budget that we’re proposing is slightly larger than the current level of spending, but it is significantly less than the governor is proposing,” said Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, the chairman of the committee.
The Union Leader reports the difference as only $340 million:
Whatever the number, the Jasper budget still increases spending by hundreds of millions of dollars, because Hassan proposed increasing spending by $1.1 billion.
What would be ideal is to back out the “federal funds” from both Hassan’s and Japser’s proposed budgets and from the prior budget in order to determine how much State spending increases. But I cannot find anything like the pie chart for the 2015 funding (or for the pie chart below, which shows how the funds are spent) for either Hassan’s or Jasper’s proposed budget.
Hell, I cannot even find how much the actual difference is between how much more spending Hassan wants and how much more spending Jasper wants!
Whatever the difference is, there are some questions that House Republicans need to ask themselves about the Jasper budget.
Does it do anything to make New Hampshire’s economy more competitive. Or, is it just a status quo budget? In 2013, the last year for which we have data, New Hampshire’s economic growth was anemic:
Does this budget cut New Hampshire’s business tax rates, which are much higher than other States? Does it get rid of RGGI, which is just a stealth tax on businesses and consumers? Or does it just leave New Hampshire’s anachronistic tax system in place?
Does this budget allocate money wisely? According to this pie chart, we spend nearly 40 percent of the budget on income redistribution.
Does this budget do anything to change higher education from the archaic four-year model, under which nearly 60 percent of college graduates find themselves taking jobs that do not require a college degree at all, never mind their major, to a model that matches skills and business-needs? Or does it just maintain the status quo?
More generally, the question that House Republicans need to ask themselves is: Is this the best we can do?
Voting for this budget, which simply takes the Governor’s proposed budget and makes a tweak here and there, would be loud and unambiguous statement to the voters that the Republican Party in New Hampshire has no vision, that it does not offer an alternative to Governor Hassan and the Democrats, but is merely a watered down version of Governor Hassan and the Democrats.
Republicans can do much better than the Japser budget, which in reality is just the Hassan budget slightly shrunk.
Let the Democrats and the Jaspercrats pass the Jasper budget.
In this House, the role of Republicans is the role of loyal opposition. Explain why you’re not voting for the Jasper budget, vote no, and let’s hope that the Senate does a better job.