Smith for Governor - Zero-Based Budgeting - "Meaningless Jargon"

Ovide Lamontagne doubles-down on 1970s-era budget tactic ; Smith calls for performance based budgets and metrics


MANCHESTER – Today, Kevin Smith, Republican candidate for Governor, commented on recent exchanges during a series of three debates over the past two weeks in which Ovide Lamontagne continued his call for zero-based budgeting.

Ovide Lamontagne has long promoted the questionable method of zero-based budgeting, which he touts on his web site, stating, “As Governor, I will insist that our departments engage in ‘zero-based budgeting.’” At a recent WMUR debate, Lamontagne doubled-down after criticism of his support for zero-based budgeting, saying “Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.” He repeated that call last week at a Seacoast Republican debate in New Castle.

In a statement, Smith noted, “difficulty” has nothing to do with it, rather the problem is that the method doesn’t work, and said that the last governor to call for zero-based budgeting was Democrat John Lynch.

“Zero-based budgeting doesn’t work. It sounds nice, but it doesn’t work,” said Smith. “Don’t take my word for it. Charlie Arlinghaus, the president of the conservative Josiah Bartlett Center, and one of the best experts on New Hampshire’s state budget, called zero-based budgeting ‘meaningless jargon’ that began with President Jimmy Carter. Ovide might think it’s a good thing, but he’s wrong. New Hampshire needs a performance based budget and a system of metrics to measure efficiency and effectiveness, and to establish priorities. I know this, because I’ve done it. Ovide knows the courtroom well, but he lacks experience on this very important issue of state budget policy.

“Since I began my campaign, I’ve expressed the need to make government less costly, more efficient and more effective in serving its citizens. To meet that goal, we must rely on a performance based budget and employ a system of metrics across state government to measure the effectiveness of agencies, offices and programs. If we don’t measure our effectiveness, we don’t know what works and what doesn’t, and we can’t assure taxpayers that their dollars are being spent wisely.”

Smith noted that a new law, which calls for agencies to submit budgets that reduce expenditures by 10 percent from the previous year’s spending, is consistent with his budget plan and determination to keep government small, responsive and affordable.

Thus far, Kevin Smith is the only candidate for governor who has released a specific plan for improving the efficiency and controlling the cost of government, and that calls for the use of metrics to measure the effectiveness of each and every program. Smith has frequently referred to his time as the Assistant Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, where he personally implemented a system of metrics to measure recidivism rates and other data, which he then used to create the Department’s first “score card.”

“This is yet another area where Ovide and I have a very different approach. My approach is a conservative, practical plan that will be far more effective in controlling spending, making government more efficient, and ultimately reducing the size of government. Zero-base budgets sound nice, but they’ve failed in the past and have been largely abandoned as a practice. If we are going to keep government small and make it more responsive to the taxpayer, we must ensure that our programs work, agencies perform well, and that money is being spent wisely – and that’s what my plan does.”