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Moderation promised: Will NH Democrats deliver?
New Hampshire Democrats racked up big victories on Tuesday by campaigning as moderates opposed to "extremist" and "radical" governing. Now we get to see if they meant it.
New Hampshire has seen this movie before. Democrats won governing majorities in 2006 and 2008 on the same theme. They promised to govern as sensible moderates who would protect the New Hampshire Advantage while balancing the budget and responsibly funding the state's most important priorities. It did not work out that way.
The Democrats passed massive spending increases and dramatically raised taxes and fees. When the tax and fee revenue was not enough to cover their spending increases, they resorted to dishonest budget gimmicks such as borrowing money to pay for operating expenses and moving some spending off the books. They even passed an income tax on owners of Limited Liability Companies. On top of that, they pursued left-wing social issues on which they had not campaigned.
The voters responded in 2010 by electing the largest Republican majorities the Legislature has ever seen. Republicans won nearly 300 of 400 House seats and 19 of 24 Senate seats. Republicans immediately set about correcting the Democrats' overspending and undoing the tax and fee hikes.
But Republicans overreached on other issues, and Democrats successfully painted them as extremists out of touch with New Hampshire. So this year voters elected Democrats to correct the overreach of Republicans who had been elected to correct the overreach of Democrats.
The meaning of these fluctuations ought to be clear. New Hampshire voters want a government that is somewhere in the middle of what both parties are offering. Take the state too hard in one direction or the other, and there will be consequences at the polls. New Hampshire Democrats learned their lesson about campaigning openly for an income or sales tax. Have they also learned the lesson about steering the ship of state too hard to one end of the political spectrum?
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