In 2010, New Hampshire voters sent a clear message. Concord was spending too much money and it was time for a change. Voters wanted lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government. With the two-year legislative session ending and all the members of the New Hampshire House and Senate up for reelection this fall, it’s an appropriate time to grade how well the legislators responded and adhered to that message.
While this biennial session was marked by several major accomplishments; there were also missed opportunities to increase economic prosperity for New Hampshire businesses and residents.
First, the budget passed in 2011 reduced spending by more than $1.2 billion and was 11% smaller than the previous budget. All without raising any taxes or fees. This is a significant step toward making government smaller and more accountable to the people it represents.
This legislature also passed a first in the nation tobacco tax reduction to help retailers in border communities remain competitive with other states, made comprehensive changes to the state retirement system and passed a law allowing local governments to enforce tax and spending caps within their communities.
In a victory for all New Hampshire private property owners, legislation prohibiting for profit companies from using eminent domain to take private land or property rights from landowners passed.
The House and Senate reached agreements on two proposed constitutional amendments; CACR 6 and CACR 13. CACR 6, known as super-majority legislation, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a 3/5th majority vote of the legislature to approve any new taxes or fees while CACR 13 would amend the state constitution so that state personal income taxes are prohibited. Both will now likely head to the voters for their consideration in November.
Unfortunately, other pieces of legislation aimed at reducing taxes and regulation are unlikely to become law.
Republicans, with super-majorities in both the House and Senate, should have been able to render a Democrat Governor useless. However, in-fighting amongst Republicans led to the demise of important legislative priorities.
For example, the House and Senate passed Right-to-Work legislation in 2011 that would have increased freedom for New Hampshire workers and attracted more large businesses to the state. Unfortunately, the House was unable to override Governor Lynch’s veto in November. This year the House passed Right-to-Work legislation again before the Senate chose to kill the bill under threat of another veto from Governor Lynch.
The Senate also failed to pursue legislation that would have moved health care decisions back to the state by allowing New Hampshire to join with other states and form a healthcare compact. Additionally, the Senate killed a reform bill designed to make the antiquated Bureau of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) more accountable to state taxpayers and save over $1 Million.
Lastly, the House consistently supported removing NH from the failed cap-and-trade scheme known as RGGI. Removing NH from RGGI would have provided ratepayers relief in their monthly electricity bills. However, the Senate made removal from this program contingent on what MASSACHUSETTS does, effectively killing the bill. I thought this was the “Live Free or Die state.”
This summer, AFP Foundation will release its annual score card detailing how your legislators voted on issues impacting economic prosperity. The score card will be available online at americansforprosperity.org/new-hampshire. Further, our Honorary Chairman, Tom Thomson, will distribute his anti-tax pledge to candidates. This information will provide voters an unbiased assessment of the true successes and failures in Concord over the last two years.
As the House and Senate complete their work for the session, the only grade that matters is the one that voters provide.
Corey R. Lewandowski is the State Director of Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire and a Windham resident.