TWO DECADES ago, my wife, Dr. Mary Pearson, and I founded a family practice medical and counseling center in Kingston. As I talk with patients and clients in our waiting room, I continually hear stories of people in genuine need, many of whom I’ve come to know and love.
As a clergyman for 45 years, I continue to help those in need. I spend time with the developmentally disabled. I chair the New Hampshire Commission on Deafness and Hearing Loss.
But both in our medical office and in the church of which I am part-time pastor, I hear the concerns and the challenges of our elderly community. They are, for the most part, people of compassion towards those in genuine need, but they fear the steady rise of taxes and fees to pay for too great an increase in state spending.
In addition, I celebrate with those who, because of recent reductions in business taxes, have been given a raise in their wages, who can work extra hours, or who have seen growth in their own small business because the state has given the ability to business owners to invest their tax savings back into their businesses.
I’ve lived in conservative states and in progressive states. I’ve scrutinized bare-bones budgets, reflective of a political philosophy that states should only focus on public safety and those matters that no individual or group can do, such as maintaining highways.
In contrast, I’ve examined budgets reflecting the belief that government should be the first, not last, resort to take care of all citizen needs, with an ever-growing cadre of state employees to render all kinds of services.
Now, I am hearing the call for the governor to compromise with the Democrat-dominated Legislature to forge a compromise between conservative and progressive views.
In my opinion, the budget the governor submitted is already a compromise: funding additional support for various groups of people in need while avoiding structural deficits and the turning of our backs on small businesses which employ our citizens. It is not a budget that ignores people in need. It is not a budget one sees in hard right-wing states.
I spend a fair bit of time with the developmentally disabled and was thrilled to see a $116.8 million increase in the governor’s budget so the wait list can disappear.
I visit parishioners in the emergency room and observe people stacked up because of an inadequacy of mental-health beds. I rejoiced when I learned that the governor’s budget called for $40 million to invest in a new 60-bed forensic facility as well as 40 new transitional beds around the state.
I am called into difficult family situations regarding youngsters, so I see the need for more staffing to help. The 62 new DCYF positions the governor proposed in his budget is a much needed addition.
I talk with the victims of sexual violence and am grateful the governor’s budget calls for a 31% increase in funding for various state domestic and sexual violence organizations.
Overall, the governor’s budget proposal is able to provide the highest ever funding that the Health and Human Services Department has ever seen in a state budget, at over $5.6 billion, which is $649 million over that of our previous budget. It does this without meddling in tax policies that could hurt our economy, and it does so using sound budgeting practices.
We can’t say that for the Democrats’ budget.
Their budget contains a retroactive business tax increase of up to 12.5% for the Business Enterprise Tax alone. It contains a structural deficit — spending more money than it brings in. It also is built on what many believe are over-promised revenue estimates, making the potential deficit even bigger. But that’s not all.
As a member of the House of Representatives, I constantly hear that one may not add non-germane amendments to a bill, but rather that particular issues should be addressed on their own.
What troubles me about the budget proposed by the Democrat-led Legislature is they have added many non-germane issues to the budget negotiations. These should be separate bills, not bargaining chips or politically driven sound bites.
All my life I’ve worked for consensus and a balanced compromise wherever possible. What I resist is people demanding balanced compromises be further compromised with the extreme positions they are pushing.
Do we need a compromise on the budget? I think we already have one in what the governor has proposed.