Our Turn: From Senate GOP: a dangerous budget stance
The game of chicken masquerading as our state budget process puts New Hampshire residents at risk of losing valuable services and critical jobs.
The Republican-controlled Senate claimed it had to cut $300 million from the House budget. The Department of Health and Human Services, which touches nearly every resident of New Hampshire, will be handed $40 million less than it needs and will be forced to make painful cuts of both services and personnel.
Additionally, Republicans are making $50 million in reckless, across-the-board budget cuts that are projected to force 700 layoffs. Just as the economy begins to get on its feet, this budget will cost critical jobs that support families and local economies. Going along with this scheme is nothing short of irresponsibility on the part of our elected senators.
On purely partisan grounds, House and Senate Republicans have taken positions designed to damage Gov. Maggie Hassan, rebuke President Obama and pay homage to an ideology that avoids reality. Senate Republicans say they refuse to pass any new taxes, and we have the red-list bridges and potholes to prove it. Our cigarette tax, just lowered last year, is the lowest in the Northeast and out-of-state big tobacco companies are making huge profits at our expense.
To top it off, Senate Republicans now seek to deny the expansion of Medicaid in New Hampshire and with it pass up the infusion of approximately 2.5 billion in federal dollars. The damage this will do to our hospitals, mental health services and struggling families is immense. A nonpartisan study projects that expanded Medicaid would cut bad debt and charity care for New Hampshire hospitals in half.
Government is instituted to provide services to its citizens. These services are not hand-outs; they are paid for in property taxes, road tolls, rooms-and-meals fees and so on. We depend on these services – the roads, the schools, the environmental protections to name just a few – in order to live in this state, get to our jobs and give back in terms of goods, services and revenue. But government cannot do its job without a source of revenue, and Republicans in Concord are unwilling to support adequate revenue for the state because of partisan politics. The you-can’t-have-your-taxes-because-we-didn’t-get-our-casino mentality belongs in the school yard, not the State House. The abhorrence of federal funding is ridiculous: Would the Republicans turn back federal highway funds based on the same theory?
The Republican leadership is calling on the conference committee of the budget writing committees to come up with a reasonable compromise, but that is an impossible request. Without any sources of revenue on the table, the only alternative will be to accept cuts in programs and jobs to meet our balanced budget mandate. This is not what we sent our representatives to Concord to do. They are there to, in conjunction with the governor, keep our state functioning on a sound fiscal and programmatic base. It is dangerous and foolhardy to do otherwise.
(Deb Reynolds of Plymouth is a former state senator. Kate Miller of Meredith is a former state representative.)