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A 2013 surprise: The state budget that wasn't

January 01. 2014 11:59PM

After Democrats took back the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 2012 and retained the corner office, Granite Staters were treated to predictions of a new era in New Hampshire governing. The year 2013 was supposed to reverse the “radical, extremist” budget-cutting of former House Speaker Bill O’Brien. After two years in the wilderness, New Hampshire was to return to the promised land of unfettered government spending.

It did not work out that way. What we saw instead was a continuation of responsible budgeting led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman and later Senate President Chuck Morse and then-Senate President Peter Bragdon.

Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed an $11.1 billion state budget that was so irresponsibly large that it could not even pass the Democratic-controlled House. That chamber made a show of spending less than the governor, passing an $11 billion budget. But Morse and Bragdon held firm on one key point — realistic revenue projections. Though Democrats controlled the House and the governor’s office, Senate Republicans managed to use solid accounting to bring the budget down to $10.7 billion. Their budget passed despite the vigorous opposition of the new Democratic leadership in Concord.

By the end of the legislative session, the move to replace fiscal prudence with profligate spending had been halted. Spending was kept in check and the two big revenue-raising schemes — Rep. David Campbell’s 15-cent gas tax increase and Gov. Hassan’s resort casino — were dashed.

Bragdon, Morse & Co. deserve applause for their masterful budget victory. It was the unexpected New Hampshire political story of the year. May it be repeated in the future.

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