Kenney says Lynch's State of the State was 'full of fluff'
By Sen. Joe Kenney
District 3 R-Wakefield
Article Date: Sunday, April 20, 2008
On Wednesday, I attended the Governor's State of the State speech at the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. The event organizers are to be commended for putting together a well attended and successful breakfast. Unfortunately, the truth is the governor's speech was full of fluff and lacked the kind of substance the Seacoast business community deserved. The governor talked a lot but he actually said very little.
The best thing the governor could have done for the Seacoast business community is to have explained why he promoted and signed into law a 17.5 percent increase in the state budget. The rest of the story on the State of the State is that the budget has increased by about a half a billion dollars, $470 million over the last budget, the largest increase in two decades. Who is going to pay for these state budget increases ultimately? Answer: the NH business community and taxpayers.
Instead of standing up and taking responsibility, the governor singled out the national economy for the revenue woes in New Hampshire. In reality, spending has been out of control under Lynch because of his weak leadership. He has been run over by his party. The spending spree in state government created a need to increase over 30 fees and other taxes from higher car and deed registration fees to turkey hunting licenses. One of those tax increases was on cigarettes, which suddenly made NH less competitive with its neighboring states, and millions of dollars were lost in state revenue. Is that good business sense?
The state is facing now a $150 million shortfall this year and next year it could increase to $250 million. What is the governor's plan to create innovative revenue for the state? More toll increases? It is going to take a combination of innovative ideas and efficiency measures to bail us out without raiding the taxpayer. I proposed a plan, already active in other states to sell ads on the backs of receipts and at toll booths that was estimated to bring in at least $500,000 a year. It was shot down like many other creative ways to raise revenue. Instead of handing over a $12 million gift to Land, Community and Investment Program (LCHIP), giving them more than triple the money they got last time they were funded, the governor could have prioritized some of that money for infrastructure project needs in local communities. I had two self-funding solutions for LCHIP which the gove rnor did not support.
The economic development efforts mentioned in the governor's speech sounded good but when you look closely it's all smoke and mirrors. For instance, he mentioned the Research and Development Tax Credit. As of today, only one business taker has expressed any interest and there are questions if the credit is even high enough to create incentives for high tech business community.
He mentioned the job-training program which has in reality always existed. This money comes from the business community. It did not just magically appear.
The HealthFirst initiative mandates a wellness and health program for groups market of over 1,000. It's a new Rhode Island plan in New Hampshire without any track record. The last time I checked the largest employer in Rhode Island was government.
The governor stated in last year's budget address: "Agencies must stop using the Highway Fund like an ATM." Great sound bite, but there was no attempt to push any state agencies out of the Highway Trust within his two-year budget. Of course, he will promise that in his next term that he will do that. Promises, promises.
I did enjoy the governor's jokes. Unfortunately for New Hampshire much like Jimmy Carter, the governor is a nice guy but a weak leader. He has not steered the state in the right direction to solve educational funding, the revenue shortfall, and the highway trust fund dilemma nor developed a state retirement system solution. State government in New Hampshire is operating with a Massachusetts style of government spending. It has moved away from New Hampshire values including responsible budgeting and preservation of our quality of life. The real State of the State is we are only one broad-based tax away from becoming Massachusetts.
Ed. Note: Sen. Kenney is a third-term senator and is considering a run for governor of New Hampshire.