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Tough choices: They haven't gone away
State department heads have requested budget increases that would raise state spending by 19 percent, Grant Bosse of the Josiah Bartlett Center has calculated. Gov.-Elect Maggie Hassan says we cannot afford that. On Monday she also acknowledged what her opponent in the governor's race said all along: We also cannot afford to undo all of the spending cuts she campaigned on undoing.
Hassan campaigned on promises to "restore" funding legislators cut when they passed the last state budget. She never said where she would get the money to do that. Now she admits that the restoration will take years - because the money simply is not there.
The last budget reduced state spending by 10.25 percent. It was only the second time since World War II that a state budget came out smaller than the previous one. Hassan called the cuts reckless and irresponsible. So why isn't she proposing an immediate increase in state spending back to the previous budget level?
The hard reality is that the revenues just are not there. Restoring the 10-cent tobacco tax cut is not going to do the trick. And Hassan seems reluctant to propose fully restoring all of the tax cuts she called "reckless" before the election, probably because she knows that doing so would hurt the recovery.
Just three weeks after the election, reality is setting in. It is easier to campaign against spending cuts than it is to find money to pay for all of the things people would like the government to do. Hassan says we face tough choices in the next budget. We did in the last budget, too. She got elected by implying that those hard choices were not necessary. But they were. Voters who hoped to see all of their favored programs and services fully funded simply by removing the speaker's gavel from Bill O'Brien's hands are, it seems, in for some disappointment.
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