During this last election the vast majority of voters in New Hampshire were very direct. Our Government was spending too much, it was taxing too much and it was over-regulating us. The message was clear…. Fix it. Unfortunately the operational constraints within the methodology utilized for the past 30 years in the House may have forced unintended consequences which few on either side of the isle are happy with.
Understanding the challenge requires a separation from the amount of the budget reduction to what was cut. The Price and the Policy. The price, $10.3 Billion Dollars. This currently passed budget amount is almost identical to what the last Democrat controlled legislature hailed as a great budget when they passed theirs for the 2008-2009 cycle. The budget which ended in 2009 was $10.4 billion and this Budget is $10.3 Billion. This House has moved the financial clock back to 2009. Irresponsible? Draconian? World ending? Actually, most will agree, it will hurt, but it is a manageable number. I believe, with minor changes, overall we will see concurrence in the Senate. Even my close Democrat friends understood and agreed cuts needed to be made, but the real issue and anger is the policy of what is being cut.
At its core, Government’s role is to provide safety, roads and to help those most in need within our community. But wait, isn’t that what was just most cut? It was, and it may actually not be entirely the House’s fault. By existing default parameters, this is the only place they had to make cuts.
Our State operates utilizing many different checking accounts, or Funds. These fund accounts can be dedicated to a single purpose, mixed, include Federal money and more. The General Fund is generated primarily from taxes paid by the residents of New Hampshire. Over the years many of our State agencies have been able to make the case for operating outside of the “General Fund” with claims of needing more flexibility or arguing their State Agency is mostly self funded (abet, even through imposing fees, fines, penalties and assessments on New Hampshire residents) and therefore the legislature allowed for the migration to self management which has absolved them from the level of scrutiny of agencies operating within the “general fund monies”. As a result, agencies within the General Fund, including Health and Human Services (which oversees most of our care for those in need) which is the bulk of it, received the most scrutiny and largest cuts.
I believe this is the wrong policy for fixing our State as it has resulted in making the majority of our cuts on those who actually have the most need. This is bad policy. But we can fix it.
I believe the Senate has the responsibility to truly reform how State Government works, and that means fundamentally changing how it operates. Modernize its processes, institute efficiencies, change how it is funded and how it is overseen by the legislature. We should look at reforms to consolidate all Business to Government functions into one digitally integrated agency where significant operational savings will be found. Our reforms need to examine both front end and back end operations for customer service and data processing. This is where our legislature needs to invest significant time and every dollar saved in operational efficiencies can be put back into a program to help those most in need.
We need to change the policy of how our legislature constructs the budget, how it manages the process and the expected results. I am optimistic that our legislature will be able to reform how this State operates and combine both the lower price as mandated by the residents with the correct policy of maintaining our core values.