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December 31. 2011 10:19PM

The state budget: Political achievement of the year

Americans frustrated by the series of impressive political failures that came to define Washington politics in 2011 could have drawn inspiration from this little state tucked up north and surrounded by activist, big-spending governments on all sides. Last year, New Hampshire legislators achieved something truly impressive: the 2011 state budget.

Taking advantage of a genuine mandate for change (Republicans won 19 of 24 Senate seats and three-fourths of the House), Republican leaders in the Legislature set out to do something unusual for politicians: keep their promises. They campaigned on a pledge to cut taxes, cut spending and balance the budget. They did all three, with no help from the governor.

Led by House Speaker Bill O’Brien, Republicans set to work on bringing the budget in line with the realities of state revenues. Over the protests of Democrats, labor unions and some recipients of state funding, House and Senate budget writers stuck to their plans. They wound up with a budget that cut state spending in real terms by more than 10 percent and also cut taxes.

The budget was by no means perfect, but it was realistic. Opponents say Republicans will pay a big price this fall for not spending more. Maybe. Or maybe voters who had to cut their own budgets just to get by will understand why such frugality was needed. Whatever the political costs, House and Senate Republicans can be proud that they brought fiscal discipline back to Concord.


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