Why can’t New Hampshire create a budget to be proud of?
By Rep. CHRISTY DOLAT BARTLETT
For the Monitor
This Legislative session has been fairly predictable, as the majority party rules the House, the Senate and the governor ’s office. There has been little on which they needed to negotiate with the minority party, including the state budget.
Where are we now? In the final month of the session, the committees of conference are meeting over the next week. This includes the budget, where members of the Senate and the House sit down to review the Senate’s proposed budget as the House leadership showed little.
The outcry is starting from the far right, the so-called Freedom Caucus, stating the state budget is spending like a “drunken sailor.”
Anyone who has been in New Hampshire and paid the smallest amount of attention to politics knows full well that New Hampshire is a very tight state.
This budget would, again, cut business taxes, leaving millions of dollars of revenue to be made up by the local property taxpayers.
Yet, the mantra of “lower taxes, smaller government” continues.
This is a lie. We need to start being truthful.
In the past several years, New Hampshire has been governing by lawsuit. We have reacted to several and, reluctantly, made small steps to address treatment for mental health and the women’s prison.
The women’s prison is a year behind schedule because the previous budget did not adequately fund the building costs. So the projected opening changed from September 2016 to September 2017 and now to November 2017. However, there was no money to hire the staff for the prison and this budget would fund 20, instead of the 72 needed. How can this new prison operate? The answer is it can’t and won’t open in November if this proposed budget passes.
The conditions at the women’s prison in Goffstown are horrible and that’s why the state lost the lawsuit and why a longpromised building is finally being built. The incarcerated women will be rejoining our communities, but the recidivism rate is great. Too many do not have the necessary skills.
These women are not receiving adequate training nor treatment to be successful in our communities upon release. Most are mothers and thousands of children in our state are affected by our unwillingness to properly fund treatment. Sadly, the majority of those incarcerated have mental health and substance use causes for why they are incarcerated.
We need to invest and stop using the term spend. There are many other investments
that we neglect. We have the highest state tuition in the country, and we are losing our young people to other states that are investing in education.
Many of our public schools are in poor condition, and I could go on. The budget provides for a minimal amount to replace roads and does not shorten the list of “redlisted” bridges, just treads water. These are not wishes, they are needs.
We are the seventh richest state per capita in the country, yet we don’t fund the basic needs. The politics of stating the “line was held” on the budget are lies. I don’t kid myself into thinking those in power will react to my criticism. Wouldn’t it be great to stand proud of what a budget achieves instead of apologizing for all it leaves out?
For those who stay informed and engaged, thank you. For those who aren’t, please take notice.
(Christy Dolat Bartlett of Concord represents Merrimack District 19.)