by Edward Mosca
The Democrat spin coming out of Concord is that either you’re in favor of the Lynch amendment or you’re in favor of an income tax. In the words of State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, “If the Legislature and the citizens defeat this amendment, they are saying the state should fund the full cost of education.” She went on to say, “That's a lot of money. No other state except Hawaii pays for all of it. If the Republicans block this, they're voting for a broad-based tax. That's what they accuse the Democrats of supporting.”
It was not an act of God that set the cost of an adequate education so high that, as Clark brags, it can only be paid for with an income tax. It was the Legislature’s choice. They didn’t have to define an adequate education in a way that requires an income tax. In fact, they didn’t have to define an adequate education at all. Any legislator who voted for the Lynch definition of an adequate education voted to hold an income tax over the voters’ heads to force them to support the Lynch amendment. And that’s called blackmail.
As for the Lynch amendment, one would think that it was handed down to our Governor on Mount Sinai. State Senator Peter Burling gushed that it would be a “constitutional affirmation” of Claremont. And that it most certainly would be. Among other things, this stinker of an amendment would put the Supreme Court in ultimate control of education policy for perpetuity, require the Legislature to regularly go through the sham exercise of defining an adequate education and determining its cost, and require that 50 percent of that cost be paid for with state taxes. At best, it only delays an income tax. No wonder then that Burling’s reaction to the amendment’s unveiling brought to mind Charlton Heston’s performance as Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.
Burling and Clark and their ilk can spin it any way they want, but a vote against the Lynch amendment is not a vote for an income tax. It is a vote against a stupid amendment that deserves to be resoundingly defeated. If an income tax results, the fault lies first and foremost with Governor Lynch because he led the charge to define an adequate education in a manner that could be used to blackmail the voters into supporting his misbegotten amendment. But an income tax doesn’t have to result, if only the Republicans could get their act together.
Unfortunately, the Republicans in Concord have swallowed hook, line and sinker the spin that the choices are either the Lynch amendment or an income tax. What they don’t, or won’t, see is that the Lynch amendment is actually the Trojan horse for an income tax. Can we really depend on the same voters who supported Arnesen and Fernald to vote for the Lynch amendment in 2008, when they know that a no vote could achieve their dream of an income tax? Of course, we can’t. And, of course, they won’t. The left will defeat the Lynch amendment, and then Lynch’s mouthpieces will emerge to spin the result as the voters having chosen an income tax. We’ll hear that, while the Governor personally remains opposed to an income tax, the voters have spoken and Lynch is going to listen. And then the Democrats will giddily dust off and reintroduce their income tax bills.
The Republican position should be that we are not limited to choosing between the lesser of two evils when it comes to public education. They need to tell the voters that the choice between the income tax and the Lynch amendment is a false choice. The Republican message should be that we are going to target aid for public education and we are going to pay for it without a broad-based tax and if the black-robed busybodies on the Supreme Court don’t like that, too bad. The targeted-aid money is going to be sent out anyway.
In other words, Republicans need to show some real leadership, rather than continuing the ruinous policy of same-but-less Republicanism, which has made the State GOP virtually irrelevant. The voters are not interested in watered down versions of Lynch’s agenda. If the Republican Party wants to prevent New Hampshire from turning deep blue, it’s time to provide a choice, not an echo. And that, unlike the spin that it’s either the Lynch amendment or an income tax, is not a false choice.