Mary Jane Wallner and Dan Feltes: A tale of two state budgets | Op-eds | Jul 12, 2021 |

THE BOOKS closed last week on the prior two-year state budget crafted by state-level Democrats. So before turning to the new Republican state budget, let’s take a look at the results of that two-year Democratic budget.

Working together, we crafted a two-year state budget that listened to the working families, senior citizens, and small businesses of New Hampshire. The proof is in the pudding: after closing the books on our budget we had a $300 million dollar surplus, thriving business and housing markets in New Hampshire, the lowest bankruptcy filings in state history and the lowest unemployment rate (2.5%) in the country.

It wasn’t by accident. Our budget included common sense investments in job training and workforce development, affordable and workforce housing, child care, infrastructure, health care, and education. On education, we delivered the most state support ever for local K-12 education, including finally supporting full-day kindergarten like any other grade. We also reinstituted local revenue sharing with every community. Overall, we invested hundreds of millions in state revenue directly into our local communities, with dozens of communities responding by reducing their property tax rates, many more holding steady.

After listening to the small business community of New Hampshire, we also did common sense business tax reform. We lowered the burden for small businesses right here in New Hampshire, while closing massive tax loopholes for large out-of-state corporations who sell into New Hampshire — like Netflix and Amazon — forcing them to pay their fair share. Simply put, we listened to and we worked for New Hampshire’s working families, seniors on fixed incomes, and small businesses.

The naysayers of our budget said it had a structural deficit, that it relied on one-time revenues, and that it would lead to an income tax. Of course, that was all a bunch of baloney — it wasn’t true then, it wasn’t true in all those phony campaign ads you saw, and it isn’t true now. In fact, the common sense Democratic state budget led to a record surplus of $279 million this past year alone, through a pandemic. Economically, the most recent data shows the Democratic state budget helped secure New Hampshire’s footing with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.5% as well as booming housing and business markets.

There’s an old saying that if you see a turtle on top of a fence post, it didn’t get there by accident. Our budget looked to the future with resilient, fiscally prudent investments in our people and our businesses — and it paid off.

That all stands in very stark contrast to the state budget just passed by Republicans. It is a doozy. Instead of just doing a state budget, the Republicans rammed into it radical right wing policies, including a first-ever abortion ban in New Hampshire, mandated ultrasounds for women seeking any abortion, cuts in funding family planning centers and Planned Parenthood, the banning of discussions on systemic inequality at our schools and in public offices propelled by White supremacists, and the diversion of public tax dollars meant for public education to private prep schools and religious schools with little to no accountability and ripe for abuse and fraud.

It’s an agenda that will certainly hurtle the state into costly litigation and it’s an agenda driven by right-wing radicals that was, unfortunately, endorsed and signed off on by Governor Chris Sununu.

Traditionally, regardless of the political party in control, controversial items like the above would go through the normal legislative process, not simply hitch a ride on the back of a two-year state budget. But, these aren’t normal times and this isn’t your normal Republican Party — it just isn’t.

Fiscally, the Republican budget takes us back in time — decades. Over a quarter of our communities will receive an actual cut in K-12 education funding, child protection staffing is slashed putting vulnerable children in the cross hairs of abuse and neglect, private prep schools and religious schools will get your tax dollars, and additional pension costs are further downshifted from the state onto all communities.

At the same time, the tax on dividends paid to stockholders is eliminated and there’s a tax giveaway to large out-of-state corporations that should be paying their fair share to New Hampshire. The wealthiest one percent and large out-of-state corporations make out like bandits. Meanwhile, local property tax payers and small businesses right here in New Hampshire are left holding the bag, literally.

It’s just not right. And, it’s really bad economics.

In the 2022 election, New Hampshire will vote on which political party is better at avoiding extremism in state budgeting, which is the better steward of your taxes, and which is better at propelling New Hampshire’s economy. At this point, there really isn’t much of a debate: vote Democrat at the state level in 2022.

Democrats Rep. Mary Jane Wallner and Sen. Dan Feltes, both of Concord, were lead budget writers of the two-year state budget ending June 30, 2021. During the crafting of that budget, Wallner served as chair of the House Finance Committee and Feltes was majority leader of the Senate, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee.