Our Turn: A budget that rewards the wealthy elite hurts New Hampshire

By SEN. JEFF WOODBURN and REP. STEVE SHURTLEFF
For the Monitor

Saturday, June 17, 2017

 

New Hampshire is a frugal state, and Granite Staters do not expect much, but we do expect our state to meet the cost-effective and critical needs of our people and ensure that hard-working families have a shot at getting ahead. Unfortunately, Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget fails this most basic, baseline test.

The Sununu budget rewards the wealthy elite, fails to meet the critical needs of our people, will drive up property taxes on hard-working families and does permanent long-term financial damage.

Two years ago, we passed business tax cuts as a part of a budget compromise in return for investments in our workforce and in our fight against the opioid epidemic. Democrats were concerned then, and remain concerned now, that these tax breaks mainly benefit large corporations rather than small businesses.

The Department of Revenue Administration’s 2016 annual report shows that 70 percent of all New Hampshire businesses pay no state business taxes and, of those that do, the wealthiest 3 percent pay 70 percent of all business taxes. Hard-working families that don’t own a business don’t see any benefit from these tax cuts, nor do the vast majority of our small businesses. It’s the top 3 percent that get rewarded instead of those small-business owners and working families that need it the most.

But if the wealthy elite are going to get more tax breaks, we should make sure that all of our state’s needs are met first. This simply isn’t true in the Sununu budget.

Instead of fully funding our efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the Sununu budget diverts money to pay for the tax cuts. Instead of reducing tuition at our colleges and universities, the Sununu budget reduces taxes for big corporations.

Instead of ensuring more than 50,000 hardworking Granite Staters can keep their health care coverage, the Sununu budget ensures that the wealthiest 3 percent get another tax break. Instead of providing workers with the job training they need, the Sununu budget provides big businesses with another leg up.

Worst of all, instead of protecting our most vulnerable citizens, including those on the developmental disabilities waitlist, those suffering from mental illness, and children in danger of harm, the Sununu budget rewards those who can afford to protect themselves.

And, while its bad enough that we’re not meeting our state’s critical needs, these tax cuts set us up for fiscal calamity down the road.

New Hampshire’s economy is strong now, but what happens when state revenues start to drop? What happens when our economy experiences a downturn?

We don’t have to guess what happens; all we have to do is look at Kansas. As part of what was called a “real live experiment,” Republicans made large tax cuts a priority about six years ago. The result? Massive deficits and deep cuts in spending on important priorities like health care and education. And because of the failure of this “experiment,” just this month Kansas Republicans were forced to raise taxes by $600 million.

Is this the road that Gov. Sununu wants New Hampshire to go down? By pushing more tax cuts for the wealthy elite, the Sununu budget opens the door to even further cuts in areas we are already underfunding and to increasing taxes on those who can afford it the least.

The Sununu budget is a radical departure from how the state has run over the last four years. Instead of working together to build on the progress we’ve made, Gov. Sununu and his Republican allies have chosen to cave to special interests and the wealthy elite.

Throughout the budget process, Democrats have offered solutions in order to find common ground, but have been routinely dismissed by Gov. Sununu and Republicans in favor of a partisan, right-wing budget that will make it harder for our working families to make ends meet.

Budgets are more than a collection of numbers. They reveal our priorities and demonstrate our values far better than a flowery speech or a well-written essay.

By insisting on another sweetheart deal for the wealthy elite rather than meeting the critical needs of our state, including taking care of children, it’s clear what Gov. Sununu and Republicans value and even clearer that their priorities do not match those of Granite State families.

New Hampshire deserves a budget that promotes upward mobility, not wealthy nobility. We don’t need to take care of the entitled and wealthy elite, we need to give hope and opportunity to everyday Granite Staters just struggling to get by.

As Democrats, we choose to fight for those who have the least rather than those who have the most. But a Trump-like budget that spends more than 12 times the amount of money per year on tax breaks for the wealthy elite than on combating the opioid epidemic is simply unacceptable.

We will oppose any budget that includes tax giveaways for the wealthy while failing to meet the critical needs of the state, and we oppose any budget that perpetuates a rigged economy where the powerful get rewarded at the expense of the rest of us.

 

(Sen. Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield is the Senate Democratic Leader, and Rep. Steve Shurtleff of Penacook is the House Democratic Leader.)

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