Publisher's Note: Who's minding the store?
By Jody Reese
New Hampshire faces many challenges these days, not the least of which is the retirement and health care money the state (that’s us by the way) owes its employees. That bill is in the billions and it’s only getting bigger.
Yet, our elected officials (it’s Democrats this time) are busy with social issues, such as gay marriage and legalizing medical marijuana. While I have no problem with either piece of legislation, it seems an inopportune time to focus on these extraneous issues when we face such a daunting economic and budget crisis. I can only conclude that this state’s elected leadership doesn’t want to deal with the tough decisions associated with our problems.
There is the budget. Either we raise taxes, which is likely, but won’t likely close the gap by itself, or we lay off or furlough employees or we pull back on state services. It’s likely we’ll need to do all of the above, making no one happy and especially state employees, a key backer of the Democrats.
Then even more problematic is the state’s liability for retirement and health care benefits. Again, no one will be happy with any outcome from this issue. It looks as though it will require increasing taxes, increasing employee contributions and increasing the age of state retirees. This wouldn’t be fun for any legislative group, but it must doubly hurt for the Democrats who have been supported by many of the state unions.
There seems to be a lot of leadership from the state Democratic Party headquarters on the social issues (even some arm-twisting), but little from Governor John Lynch, the Executive Councilors or the leadership in the House and Senate. This includes the Republicans who seem intent on hiding and taking pot shots. They have offered little to no constructive ideas. I recently got to hear former governor John Sununu, now the leader of the state party, who painted a bleak picture of the state’s finances but failed to mention even one solution — other than to throw the Democrats out. While that may be a solution down the road for some, it does nothing to solve the problems today.
Perhaps Lynch sees all this and is hoping the hoopla over the social issues will ebb so he can deal with the mounting problems. But it’s a mistake to wait. Being governor isn’t just about letting the legislature set the tone. If the legislature is intent on ignoring the current crisis, then veto everything they send your way that doesn’t deal with it. Use your bully pulpit to stir our elected officials, Republicans and citizens to actions. If you have to, campaign against your own party bosses.
I can’t imagine any of that would be easy. It may even prompt party leaders to run someone against you for the next election, but leadership isn’t always easy. And it is all the more necessary in difficult times such as we face.