OVER THE past couple of weeks, New Hampshire Democrats have made wildly histrionic claims about the state budget recently passed by both chambers of the General Court, which Gov. Chris Sununu has said he will sign. We need only to look to the recent past to see how far off the mark the Democrats’ prediction can be.
The Democrats predicted Republican business tax cuts would crater state revenues. In fact, state revenues have flourished under Republican fiscal policies, including those same business tax cuts. For example, the state Department of Administrative Services says revenues for the month of April alone were $85 million higher than expected.
The Democrats predicted that Gov. Sununu’s COVID policies would result in vast outbreaks and shocking death tolls. All COVID deaths are tragic, but Sununu’s policies allowed New Hampshire to weather the COVID storm better than any other state in the region. A May poll from the UNH Survey Center showed that 72% of Granite Staters approve of the governor’s handling of the pandemic.
So when New Hampshire Democrats howl claims that this budget will downshift costs, prevent the teaching of history, jail doctors, and whatever else, consider the source: desperate political actors bereft of ideas with a verifiable record of being objectively wrong most of the time.
Now, at the risk of engaging a bit of hyperbole myself, this budget is breathtakingly well crafted. As Gov. Sununu said on Thursday, “Historic tax cuts, property tax relief, and paid family medical leave delivered all in one sweeping action is a win for every citizen and family in this state.”
Below is the long list of winners under this budget (HB 1) and its companion trailer bill (HB 2) followed by a short list of losers.
Property taxpayers. The budget directly reduces Granite Staters’ property tax burden by decreasing the Statewide Education Property Tax by $100 million.
Tourism industry. The Meals and Rooms tax will drop to 8.5% from 9% at a time when our hospitality industry is trying to rebuild from the economic consequences of the pandemic.
Small business owners and their employees. The Business Enterprise Tax rate will drop to .55% and the threshold for filing the BET has been increased, exempting 30,000 small businesses from having to file the tax at all. That means more and better-paying jobs for Granite Staters.
Seniors. The budget fully phases out the Interest and Dividends Tax over the next five years, meaning seniors can use more of their retirement savings to enjoy their golden years.
Cities and towns. Oh, someone told you this budget cuts aid to municipalities? Well, they lied to you. The budget ensures 30% of revenue collected from the Meals and Rooms Tax will be earmarked for distribution to cities and towns. It sends $83.3 million in aid to municipalities for infrastructure projects. It increases state aid to the education funding formula by nearly $100 million over the biennium.
Families. Education Freedom Accounts and increased aid to charter schools create more education options for working families. It fully funds special education aid for higher-cost students. The budget trailer bill prohibits teaching the false and hateful message that some people are inherently racist based solely on their skin color. It prohibits state funds from being used to perform abortions. And it ensures New Hampshire is the 44th state in the union to restrict late-term abortions. And for the first time New Hampshire has a paid family leave program.
I could go on, but suffice it to say the number of Granite Staters who pay property taxes, work for a small business, are members of families, are affected by New Hampshire’s tourism industry, know or care for (or are) a senior, and live in a city or town is approaching something close to 100% of the state population. So I’ll list only a couple more winners.
House leadership. House Republicans can take a bow for this exceptional budget, having contributed much of the early work, herded most of the cats, and taken most of the unfair criticism. Rep. Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) deserves special mention for gallantly fighting for essential and defining components of the budget trailer bill. His considerable political and legislative talents serve his constituents and the state well.
State Senate leadership. Sens. Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) added their typical steady and conservative common sense to the budget debate and, through compromise and negotiation, formed the nucleus of the final budget and budget trailer bills that will become law.
House Democrats. They chose performance art over legislating, offered nothing useful to the budget debate, and ultimately left their constituents voiceless in Concord.