NH Budget Battle

The NH House of Representatives dealt with their version of the state budget for the coming biennium this week. Traditionally the House Finance Committee crafts a budget that House Leadership supports and presents to the entire House for approval. Traditionally this is a relatively easy process when 1 party controls the Governor’s Office and both houses of the Legislature.

In 2017 though things went a little differently. Despite the NHGOP controlling both houses and the Governor’s Office the budget proposal from the Finance Committee, supported by the Republican Leadership failed on the floor of the NH House by a vote of 134 for and 220 against.

In 2017 the NH Republican Party is no longer your grandfather’s Grand Old Party of frugal Yankees watching every cent and often being pennywise and pound foolish. Today the NHGOP is 2 factions loosely affiliated so as to sometimes benefit each other. There are the ‘Frugal Yankees’ and the recently formed NH House Freedom Caucus.

The NH House Freedom Caucus is much like the Freedom Caucus in Washington. Budget cuts are never deep enough. There are always wasteful government programs. In fact in their eyes all government is wasteful spending. Many of the NH House Freedom Caucus members are also members of the Free State Project, whose stated goal is the destruction of the state government of New Hampshire. Some of their members even call for secession from the United States.

The reason the Republican Leaderships budget failed was because The Democrats refused to support it, no surprise there, because it already failed to address the priorities important to Democrats across NH and Granite Staters overall. It failed to adequately cover addiction services for those battling opiod addiction, it threatened to leave us with the largest waitlist for developmental disabilities services in a decade and forced retired state employees to pay more for their healthcare than was promised them during their years of service to the Granite State. The NH House Freedom Caucus also refused to support the proposed budget because they felt it spent too much on things like addiction treatment, services for the developmentally disabled, retiree healthcare and other vital state services.

The NH House Freedom Caucus did present their own version of a budget. It failed by a vote of 75 for and 282 against. The Democrats and ‘moderate’ Republicans both in opposition. The Democrats then presented their version of a budget, it failed 162 for and 196 against. With both Republican factions in opposition. If the ‘moderate’ Republicans would have worked with The Democrats there are things that could have been worked out to satisfy both sides, like funding the Governor’s plan for full day Kindergarten. But Speaker Jasper and Deputy Speaker Chandler refused all attempts by the Democrats to reach across the aisle.

Now the NH Senate Finance Committee will present their version of the budget to the floor and then the Committee of Conference will work to pass a budget to send to the Governor. Traditionally the House and Senate each have a budget to bring to the table but this year only the Senate will have one. The House negotiators can oppose parts of the Senate budget but cannot propose any new items. This is the first time since records on this have been kept, starting in 1969, that this has happened. The NH House of Representatives, the Peoples House, is at a significant disadvantage in those negotiations and the Speaker says the failure to pass any budget is extremely shortsighted.

How did we get to this point though? Years ago you just had to say you were a Republican and were able to serve in the House for $100/year and you were likely to be elected, especially in places like Bartlett and Jackson. As the second homeowners we’ve relied on to fund our government moved into those homes full time though the politics of Mt Washington Valley changed and the NHGOP began to loose power. It embraced the Free State Project because it was bringing Conservatives to NH. The FreeStaters were happy to join the Republicans because it gave them easy access to the levers of power. FreeStaters who have moved to more Progressive areas have run as Democrats in order to win but vote with the Repubilcans in the NH House most of the time.

In Bartlett, and at times other communities in Mt Washington Valley depending on the district’s, we’ve sent 1 individual to Concord as our representative for over 35 years largely because of the level of influence and power he has built over that time. Despite Bartlett and Jackson overwhelmingly supporting Democrats at the top of the ticket we have still sent Gene Chandler to the NH House, and Jeb Bradley to the NH Senate as of late. We have to start asking how influential is he now though? Of the Carroll County Delegation, 14 members of the House at this point, 11 are Republican. Yet Rep. Chandler only got 8 of them, including himself, to support his budget proposal. And these are his relative neighbors. The NH House Freedom Caucus doesn’t care about Gene’s years of service to the state and the town of Bartlett. They don’t care about how much money he raises. They only care about cutting state services to the bone, and then some, and creating their anarchist utopia in NH. And they are the future of the NHGOP. How much longer are we going to send a representative to Concord who doesn’t share our values and no longer has the power to keep the Legislatures eyes looking North?

Looking to the future the people of Bartlett, Hart’s Location and Jackson need a representative that not only aligns with their values but aligns with the values of the entire state. Yes the GOP controls the House, Senate and Governor’s office right now. But our entire Congressional Delegation is Democratic and Hillary Clinton won NH in the Presidential election. An ungerrymandered NH Legislative map will yield a much more Democratic State House after 2020. We need a representative who will work to ensure funding for full-day kindergarten so our kids all have the same shot at a great future regardless of their zip, funding for addiction services that are so badly needed, maintenance for all of our roads and bridges and so much more. I look forward to being that representative!