Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Feeding the Unicorn

At the end of the last legislative session, Governor Hassan vetoed the state budget that was written by the far right libertea crowd, with an assist from the Koch brothers. This week, the Governor announced that a compromise had been reached.

All summer long, the NH GOP has attacked the governor for vetoing their budget. Their budget enacted business tax cuts that would have left $90 million dollar holes in future budgets, yet they claimed it was responsible. Somehow, magically, a pristine white unicorn would ride in on that wave of tax cuts and fart rainbow fairy dust all over the state, and all that needs funding would somehow magically be funded. Infrastructure! State parks! State employees! Feed that unicorn some beans!

NH does not ever budget in a fiscally responsible way. Most of us wouldn’t patronize a business that was attempting to run with broken equipment and a leaky roof, because the owner was too cheap to invest in his business. That is exactly the business model by which we run our state.

Our Republican brethren are still mired in the trickle down theories embraced by their beloved/invented Saint Ronnie. That those theories have been disproven time and time again doesn’t matter to these folks. They are incapable of grasping reality. They have no plan for the future.

The Democrats aren’t much better. They make a little noise, but ultimately they cave in to the pledge politics that rule our state. Governor Hassan has made a deal that is politically expedient, but it’s not responsible. It will, however, allow her to run for the US Senate, without too much GOP braying about how she vetoed their budget. The agreement also gives cover to those House Republicans pondering a run for governor.

This budget does not ensure that there is enough money to run our state in a responsible way. The Department of Corrections doesn’t have sufficient staff, so they are soliciting volunteers to work as file clerks. The site reminds us that these are unpaid, volunteer positions. There will be a background check, they say. There will be a two-hour orientation. There is no mention of confidentiality.  This is a perfect illustration of how dysfunctional our state has become.

Volunteers. Remember former Governor Craig Benson’s volunteers? He had an entire shadow government comprised of his Cabletron cronies who were called “volunteers.” He refused to give us the names of the volunteers or list their duties – at least not until the scandals started breaking. Volunteer Linda Pepin negotiated a no-bid contract for state employees health care, despite the fact that she wasn’t qualified or empowered to do so. She took only one bid. Benson fired Pepin. He asked his AG, Peter Heed to look into the matter. Heed was a Benson appointee, (that was bad enough) and he included Kelly Ayotte, (then assistant AG) in the investigation. Ayotte had been Benson’s attorney only months before. The Benson administration was rife with corruption, which is why he only served one term. It’s also why Republicans never trot him out as a success story. Oh, and he still hasn’t paid the artist he commissioned to paint his portrait which was intended to hang in the State House. Sleazy till the end.

Volunteers are wonderful. We rely on them to keep our towns running, in so many ways. We should not rely on them to fill positions that should be filled by paid employees, or to run our state government, a la Benson.

The budget agreement does not include reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program, (aka expanded Medicaid) which insures some 40,000 low-income working folk in our state. The NH GOP spent the summer carping about the heroin epidemic, and how the governor was allegedly contributing to it by refusing to sign off on their odious budget. As treatment experts have said again and again, the NHHPP is one of the best tools they have in the fight against addiction, because it pays for substance abuse treatment. It appears their concern for the dead and the dying was no more than a cudgel for them to beat the governor with. In the governor’s statement, on this agreement, she states that she is taking Republican leadership at their word that they will take up legislation reauthorizing the NHHPP as soon as possible. Given that these are the same folks who refused to honor the contract negotiated in good faith between the state and the state employees, I don’t share her willingness to take them at their word.

What this budget does is tread water in the name of political expediency. What it does not do is move our state forward in any way. This budget kicks the infrastructure can down the road, as it has been kicked by previous legislatures for decades now. We will still have hundreds of bridges on the state’s red list for being structurally impaired. It will not move us from our pathetic ranking of 50th place in state spending on our state university system. NH college students will continue to graduate with the highest debt load in the nation.

None of this, by the way, is attractive to business. Big businesses locate in states that have robust infrastructure. They want good roads, bridges, ports, and airports. They want to move their employees to states where housing is affordable. NH has the second highest property taxes in the nation. Our telecommunications infrastructure is lacking, especially in the top half of the state. The companies that serve our telecommunication needs are few and hardly competitively priced.

Better feed that unicorn some beans.

Published as an op-ed in the Sept. 18 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.



"NH does not ever budget in a fiscally responsible way."

This is disingenuous at best. New Hampshire does an effective job at capital budgeting with limited resources. If you Susan The Bruce had taken any time to consider the state budget including the underlying economic conditions you'd understand this. But you do not it's much easier to pitch ignorance.

Nearby states also serve as an example of this. Vermont per capita has the highest national average of people on welfare and social programmes and this is a state that has both a sales, income tax, comparable state property tax (to NH), and a deplorable infrastructure-- especially noticeable in the rural areas. Maine isn't much better. They have managed a budget surplus but this can't stay, especially with a sharply declining tax base (paper manufacturing) and an declining population, soon to be less than New Hampshire. In five years Maine will be very similar to Vermont, it is already.

The real decisions in New Hampshire are made from gated communities from places like Bedford, Rye and Hollis. This is the reality, a limited capital budget suits them just fine. New Hampshire does budget in a fiscally responsible way, what is lacking is leadership and things will never change unless questions are asked.

Real questions Susan The Bruce.

Steven J. Connolly

Artemisia said...

Thank you, Susan! Best analysis I've read yet. DETAILS count. Haven't heard too many from the GOP lately. Heard lots of BS though. For example, their answer to New Hampshire coming in LAST in financial support for higher ed? IN THE ENTIRE USA? "We have to get tough with UNH on their spending." (And a big raspberry to Laura Knoy for letting that one pass on NHPR....)

susanthe said...

Steven J. Connolly - real questions?

You didn't ask any.

Blah, blah, blah Vermont and blah, blah, blah Maine are irrelevent. The topic is NH.

Nice try, though - and bonus points for not including your usual quote from one of the Nazis you admire!

Brian Loudermilch said...

Steven J. Connolly - Have you EVER given a thought about anyone in this state that lives Outside one of those gated Communities? Probably NOT.

Artemisia said...

That is NOT TRUE about Vermont. It's actually smack dab in the middle. NOTE that "Blue States are Less Dependent on the Federal Government," as well.

Bob Clegg said...

Corrected spelling
Susan you did what should be done every time we are given an addictive medication. No discharge until your clean. As for treatment centers I watch the methadone clinic in Hudson some days while I  eat breakfast. The clients come racing in, some leave little children in the cars while they go inside. None wait the time required before driving, in and back driving in 7 minutes or less. Some have violent reactions but the clinic doesn't allow them to use the bathroom so they run to the restaurant when they are sick. One man didn't make it to the toilet and feces flew all over the floor. A women from the clinic  ran in sick and it took 45 minutes to clean the vomit off  3 of the 4 walls in the ladies room. The owners of the clinic state they have a sign  that tells clients to go find a public bathroom. They say it says  they can't use the one in the clinic. have heard the security guard ignore pleas and tell them to buy a coffee and use the restaurant restrooms One lady talked with a waitress and said she wants to be weaned of methadone but they refuse to help her. She doesn't want to be on any drugs and they appear to not want to lose the money she brings in. So we have a for profit system that makes money off the ill and they treat them like dogs so they will continue to need something to make them not care. We can't expect any better result until we actually designate the money we spend will be used, not  for people to get rich, but as it should be used to help people out of the hole.‎     I see how they are just dollar signs for the clinic it's no wonder the death toll is rising.