legislature has pledged to do whatever is necessary to fill that gap
without new or increased taxes and without cost shifting down to the
municipalities, counties and school districts of this state."
Early in the 2011 session, the new Republican controlled state legislature pledged to cut spending enough to plug the $800-900 million hole left by the previous Democrat controlled legislature and also reduce that legislature’s increased spending, without downshifting costs to the cities, towns and school districts, the "political sub-divisions" of the state.
Termed by some naysayers as The Great Experiment, the new Republican legislature accomplished the extraordinary feat of filling the deficit hole in the budget and reducing the state’s budget plan by 11%, taking the amount of spending back to that of the 2009 budget without new taxes and without downshifting.
There is a bump in the road regarding the funding of municipal and school district retirement contributions. Here is what happened.
Prior to July 1, 2011, the NH Retirement System board had been dominated by employee representation. The new budget changed that so that the government employers were given majority representation. The intent of the legislature was to have those employers fund the retirement programs without an increase in contributions. In other words, there would be no downshifting.
However, before the pre-July 1 board could be replaced by the new board, they voted on July 1, 2011 to lower the investment assumption rate, which is the percentage that the retirement fund could expect to make in its return on investments. A lower assumption rate would increase the amount of money that the political sub-divisions would need to contribute to the system.
The new board was established and immediately raised the assumption rate to the amount previously planned so that the political sub-divisions would not see a rise in their contribution rates. But, the July 1, 2011, figures existed and the contribution rates went up for the month of July. This was a significant problem because the budgets had already been passed in the political sub-divisions which had assumed the lower contribution rate.
The legislature attempted to walk back the contribution increases by making their new assumption rate higher, thus lowering the contributions required and eliminating downshifting. Part I, Article 23 of our constitution, however, prohibits retroactive laws and the legislative attempt was thwarted.
A meeting was held last Thursday to discuss HB654, a bill presented to credit the political sub-divisions for the contribution overpayments. The retirement system maintained that the rates established on July 1 were correctly certified and were legally in place for the month of July, thus no overpayments exist. There was also agreement that a bill to start the new lower payments as of July 1 would be unconstitutional. But, the committee refuses to go back on its word to the voters that costs would not be downshifted.
Another meeting will be held on Tuesday. As a member of the Pension Reform committee, I’m sure we can find a way out of the morass.
Not the party line
philosophy is a combination of fiscal conservatism and social
libertarianism, which is where I believe the majority of New Hampshire
When I started this column back in January, I described myself as a fiscal conservative and a social libertarian. That means that, as a good Republican, I will vote with the party when its positions match mine, which is frequently – but not always. There are some questions where I deviate from the Republican Party line, frequently having to do with social issues.
One example is gay marriage. If no one is harmed, what individuals do behind closed doors is none of my business. As a philosophic libertarian, the "nature or nurture" debate is irrelevant to me. How those people become gay, whether by birth or choice, is of no matter. Their lifestyle does not impact on mine. They neither steal from my wallet nor imperil my freedom. They have a right to whatever personal preference they choose. I have been married to the same woman for 47 years and my marriage is not threatened by them.
Another example is not a social issue but one of money and power. It is the death penalty. As a fiscal conservative, I am convinced by many studies that it is more expensive to kill a murderer than to lock him up for the rest of his life. Incarceration for life fulfills government’s requirement to keep the public safe. Too many innocent defendants have been put to death. A life sentence can be reversed; the death penalty cannot. I also believe that the deterrence of the death penalty has been shown to be a myth. I am a small government advocate. What more power can government have than to take your life? This is especially so if an incarcerated life is an option.
Abortion is an issue that I consider to be a religious one. Roe vs. Wade is a federal issue and is the law of the land. There is nothing at the state level that we can do to change it, but there are tangential things that are up to the New Hampshire legislature. First, we can stop paying for abortions through Medicaid. In most cases, this is elective surgery. But if the mother’s life is in danger, Medicaid should pay. Secondly, we overrode a veto of the parental notification law. Nurses need parental permission to give a 15 year-old an aspirin at school. Parents have the right, with legal remedies, to at least be notified. Thirdly, I believe that partial birth abortion is infanticide and should be outlawed.
I take positions without re-election in mind. $100 a year does not qualify me as a "politician". I am instead a voluntary representative of the people and I represent them only if they want me to. I may or may not decide to ask for re-election. But, if I do, the people will decide. As Edmund Burke said, "Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment."
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Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")