Newly elected state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, has introduced the inevitable bill to restore the $100 million that was cut from the University of New Hampshire's budget in the last legislative session. Of course, there is a catch. The state does not have the money.
Said Fuller Clark to New Hampshire Public Radio last week, "I know that many of us are committed to reinstating the cigarette tax, and I think there may be some other opportunity to find new ways to raise revenues within the given constraints of no income tax, no sales tax." The cigarette tax hike would generate a tiny fraction of the money needed.
We asked her office last week how she would pay for the bill. "Martha is confident, working with her fellow legislators and Gov. Hassan, that the necessary funding can be identified through the process of hearings, etc.," was the response.
In other words, she has no idea. And so it begins. After Democrats took the state Legislature in 2006, they set their spending priorities, then grasped for every possible dime to pay for them. Taxes and fees went up. They even borrowed to pay for operating expenses. Fuller Clark's bill raises the reasonable suspicion that history will repeat itself.
Although Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has asked department heads to trim spending by 3 percent for next year, her fellow Democrats might make hitting those targets difficult. Let us all hope that if the Democratic Party is split into a Fuller Clark "we'll find the money somehow" faction and a Maggie Hassan "let's see how much money we have" faction, the Hassan faction wins.