Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Legislature passes irresponsible budget amidst protest

Legislature passes irresponsible budget amidst protest

This afternoon lawmakers in Concord passed an $11.6 billion budget plus a spate of unpopular tax increases needed to pay for it. During the vote, a group of roughly 200 people gathered around the capitol to participate in an organized protest. Cathy, myself and our two children were among them, armed with posters and unflattering words for those who feel they know how best to spend our money.

Protestors covered the gamut, although a few causes such as opposition to the 9% camping tax stood out in larger than average numbers. The rally afforded me the opportunity to speak to lawmakers, reporters, and ordinary citizens. (Having two adorable children in tow helps break the ice.) One lawmaker whose name I didn't get expressed a genuine interest in understanding why I believe that mandates from Concord force school districts to spend far more money than we otherwise would. I should have invited him to a school board meeting to hear people in the audience bleating "Its a state law, we have to do this."

At the same time, a suited man (perhaps a lawmaker or lobbyist) tried to persuade me that cuts in state education spending would mean increased property taxes. As I explained that we could alternatively cut spending, he sprinted away, apparently more comfortable with lecturing me than engaging in a dialogue.

More annoying opposition came from a group of people dressed in chicken suits who walked the perimeter shouting "Republicans are too chicken to name the cuts". The irony of a group concealing their identity afraid to engage those of us who did name cuts calling other people "chicken" was not lost on the public. This was no grass-roots group; it was astroturf. After all, how many people keep chicken suits in their attic at the ready for the next state protest?

Tonight, the champagne will flow freely in the teachers lounges and government employee union halls. While they celebrate their increased wealth at the expense of working class New Hampshire citizens, we must hold lawmakers who have betrayed the public trust to account. Next year can and must be a referendum against lawmakers who have turned their backs on the people of New Hampshire.

Jim Peschke

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