Down in Concord

“You have to have a sense of humor if you follow politics. Otherwise, the sheer fraudulence of it all will get you down.” — Thomas Sowell

This series of columns began with a quote usually attributed to Mark Twain: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” It turns out that Twain may have used the phrase but the original author is Judge Gideon J. Tucker.

In any event the quote is just as true today as it was 150 years ago. And next week the New Hampshire General Court (the official name of our legislature) is in session two days rather than the usual one. At this time of the year, the House and Senate have had public hearings on almost every bill – the exceptions are mostly budget-related bills – and the committees have voted and made recommendations. Now the full House (and Senate) votes on the committee recommendations.

Interestingly (at least to political nerds such as myself) this week there are multiple instances of committees failing to make recommendations. On five bills, the committee could not reach agreement – there was a tie vote. Clearly, the votes were at least partly non-partisan. It will be interesting to see if the full House votes will be partisan or will be mixed.

My goal with these columns has been to do something a bit different. Many columns, newsletters, and articles will tell you some of what the legislature did do last week in Concord. I want to tell you more about what it will do next week, and tell you early enough that you can affect the outcome by appearing at public hearings or contacting your representatives.

This week I can’t do much of that because the usual stuff is not happening down in Concord. There are practically no public hearings, and very few committee meetings. Your voice has the greatest impact early on. By now it is harder to change minds. Oh, there may be some close votes where contacting your representatives could affect the outcome. More likely, you will hear explanations as to why they have decided to vote the way they will.

“Practically” no public hearings. As it happens there is one important public hearing next week – and it is right in Claremont. The House Finance Committee is holding a regional public hearing Monday, March 18 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, 111 South Street. I plan to attend and to testify against the proposed 83% increase in the gas tax.

The Governor’s proposed budget takes money away from roads and bridges at the same time Democrat legislators say we need to spend more money on roads and bridges. They propose to increase the gas tax 83%.

Hey, if they are going to spend LESS money on roads and bridges, why do they need MORE money from struggling taxpayers?

The Democrats’ proposed budget takes $28 million away from the dept. of Transportation (DOT), where it could be used to fix roads and bridges.

Under current law, 73% of the Highway Fund – money we already pay in the form of gas taxes and vehicle registrations – is supposed to go to the  DOT. The Democrats’ budget sends only 67% of highway money to the DOT. Money that should go to constructing and maintaining roads and bridges instead goes to the dept. of Safety, i.e. the State Police.

If the law says that 73% of the Highway Fund is supposed to go to the DOT, how can the Governor break the law and send only 67% to the DOT? The answer is that the budget writers will pass a law that says that it is okay to break the law. That is the kind of thing that sneaky legislatures do year after year to let them spend money the way they want to even if the law says spend it a different way.

Democrat proponents of the 83% increase in the gas tax say that all of the new money will go to roads and bridges. But that is a shell game. Even if they keep their promise about the new money, we see that they are already diverting $28 million of old money. How does it help our roads and bridges to put more new money into the fund, if more of the old money is taken out of the fund to spend on state police and other agencies?

Before we let them take even more “new” money from struggling taxpayers, let’s tell them to stop diverting the “old” money away from roads and bridges. If they just obey current law and dedicate 73% of the current highway fund to roads and bridges, that would be an extra $28 million. If they dedicate 83% of the old money to the DOT, there would be no excuse for new money from their proposed 83% tax increase.

Let’s tell our Representatives to stop siphoning old gas tax money out of the Highway Fund before telling us to put new gas tax money into the fund.

That is what I plan to do on Monday, March 18 –  testify at the public hearing in Claremont. Please join me in opposing the largest tax increase in state history.