‘What the heck am I paying for?’
To the Editor:
Yes, the General Court of New Hampshire passed the 2018 budget. With the majority party in control, this means more cuts to services, more tax cuts for businesses and more misleading statements.
It’s been dusted off, shined up and trotted out again. Where will it end? People see their property taxes going up while services remain stagnant and wonder to themselves, “What the heck am I paying for?”
Our state budget’s top three revenue buckets include federal funds, general funds and the educational trust fund. Within the General & Education Funding, our top three revenue streams include business taxes, state property taxes, and the meals and room taxes.
Year after year, the Republican budget writers have cut state aid to towns and cities. On top of that, they have turned back federal funds in the name of reducing the overall tax burden.
A horrifying example of downshifting occurred in 2011 when the General Court eliminated the state’s contribution to retirement costs for municipal employees in the guise of cutting spending at the state level. This forced municipalities to raise property taxes annually to this day in order to make up the difference.
Many programs and services suffer due to the diversion of funds: infrastructure, higher education, services for the most frail among us, tourism, energy programs, elderly services, public transportation programs, workforce programs and the unaddressed developmentally disabled waitlist (now at 250 people).
New Hampshire has tax cuts in current law left over from the last budget cycle. These cuts cost us $20 million in 2017 – revenue that was taken out of the revenue stream in the form of tax cuts. This means that $20 million will not be available for desperately needed services. When the latest round of tax cuts are added in, the loss of revenue will reach $128 million in FY 2022.
According to the most recent New Hampshire DRA report (FY2016): 70 percent of businesses pay no business taxes; 30 percent do pay taxes, and the top 3 percent of this group pay 70 percent of all business taxes – this is the group receiving tax cuts. Many of these companies have locations in New Hampshire but are headquartered elsewhere.
Businesses in New Hampshire say they do not need tax cuts. What they need is a trained workforce; their towns need workforce housing and statewide accessible broadband; public transportation; family-friendly legislation so people will move here/stay here because it is a family-friendly and worker-friendly state.
Be aware of the special language that goes along with presenting a budget – misleading statements:
Legislators say: We have reinstated funds (or dollars) to this line item.
Translation: We cut this item drastically, and now we are putting some of it back.
We continue to support “x y z.”
Translation: We left it in the budget and funded it for $1 (or for the amount requested in the previous year).
This service is level funded.
Translation: We funded the service at the same amount as last year (which, by the way, makes it a CUT!).
We provided programs for Meals on Wheels/juvenile programs/turnpike rest areas, etc.
Translation: Funded as a program, but no staffing, training or maintenance funding.
Workforce programs have been created.
Translation: The program is in place, but there are no funds for staff/supplies/administration.
There are many budget moves such as raiding funds that are earmarked for specific purposes that add to the burden of funding at the local level.
What can you do? The budget has passed, but you are not alone in your concern over these issues. Send a letter of concern to the governor about your thoughts. Copy your representative and senator.
Carol R. Roberts
Hillsborough District 4
Wilton, Lyndeborough, Francestown and Greenville