By Andrew Hemingway, chairman, Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire
The Democrats want you to believe that last week’s rally at the State House reflects the majority opinion in New Hampshire. But now that the busloads of public union members have returned to our spendthrift neighboring states and the hundreds of in-state protesters have hopefully returned to their public service jobs, it’s time for a dose of reality.
During the last four years, New Hampshire Democrats not only spent all of your tax dollars; they also borrowed from your children and grandchildren to pay for regular operating expenses, and they relied on more than $700 million in federal taxpayer dollars through the so-called “stimulus package” to cushion public sector employees from the effects of the economy. Even with all of their borrowing and use of one-time funding, the Democrats still left a $47 million deficit in the current budget for the next Legislature to clean up.
Contrary to the idea that such spending might have actually “stimulated” some job growth, the private sector in New Hampshire lost thousands of jobs while Democrats were in office. Now, the Democratic faithful have the audacity to complain about some moderate reductions in public sector staffing and pay packages like it’s the end of the world? New Hampshire already employs more public sector employees per capita than the average U.S. state, according to the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. Would Democrats prefer we employ the most of any state?
In November, voters rejected the Democratic position that the state has a “revenue problem” and agreed with the Republican position that the state has a “spending problem.” They also agreed with a large group of new Republicans who reminded voters that the best way to create jobs is to cut taxes and fees and lift burdensome regulations so New Hampshire businesses can flourish on their own without government getting in the way.
Unlike past campaigns when politicians said one thing to voters then went another direction in office, the Republicans currently serving in the Legislature have historically done exactly what they said they were going to do. These House Republicans have given voters a balanced $10.3 billion budget for the next two years and they have balanced the current budget without raising taxes or fees, without any new borrowing and without passing any new burden down to the cities and towns of the state. I have no doubt that the silent majority of New Hampshire voters are quite pleased.
Most New Hampshire voters know that the House budget is a moderate and reasonable plan that finally asks public sector employees to live within the same reality as the people they serve. If you still have doubt, ask yourselves: How many private-sector employees do you know who have a pension program through their companies? It’s amazing the noise public sector employees are making because the Legislature has asked them to commit another 2 percent of their pay toward this generous system. And if you still have doubt, ask yourselves: How many private sector employees do you know who aren’t workers at-will? It’s amazing the noise public sector employees are making because the Legislature has asked them to negotiate new contracts without the unusual protection of their old contracts carrying on for years after they have expired.
Contrary to the rhetoric of the Democratic misinformation campaign, the House Republicans’ budget simply restores the balance of power to the people of New Hampshire and stands up to all of the self-serving special interest groups that have opposed such positive change in the past. I truly hope Senate Republicans can be as strong.
While House Republicans truly made some tough choices by cutting $742 million in their budget, it’s important to note that they also restored $150 million worth of spending that the governor had cut out from school building aid, catastrophic aid, special education and state contributions to local employees’ retirements. Perhaps local educators and other public employees should consider this generosity before they run out and shout slogans prepared for them by their union bosses?
New Hampshire should not be a state that shelters a few classes of citizens from the burden facing the rest of us. It’s time for the Democrats to stop complaining about the mess they created so Republicans can use the opportunity voters gave them to clean it up. It’s time for taxpayers to get a break so they can take some time to recover and rebuild the New Hampshire Advantage that the Democrats squandered. It’s also time for the silent majority to express a little appreciation to House Republicans for doing what they were sent to do. While they’re at it, I hope they send a little pressure toward Senate Republicans, who had better learn from their responsive counterparts in the House if they want to return to Concord in 2012. Voters are watching, but I, for one, am confidant that they like what is coming out of the House.