Tastes Great, Less Filling
06-26-2009
Well, I don’t believe anyone in our state legislature actually thinks the budget adopted on Wednesday goes down smoothly, but some would agree that it is definitely less filling. If you followed local coverage of budget negotiations, then you already know that no one on either side of the partisan divide is especially thrilled with its patchwork of spending cuts, increased taxes and user fees, all glued together with a generous helping of one-time federal stimulus money.
 
But one aspect of the debate that I find particularly fascinating is the question of whether the budget as adopted actually increases spending, holds it level, or manages to decrease it a bit. Not surprisingly, the political narratives emanating from both parties on this question fit the classic mold of dueling partisan spin.  Republicans claim the Democratically-controlled legislature should have done more to reduce spending, although Republicans were in turn chided for not being specific enough about precisely where to cut. And, Democrats counter that in very difficult times they were able to produce a budget that protects New Hampshire’s essential services, while keeping state government level-funded.
 
So who is correct here? It is often difficult to tell when you are dealing with a complicated set of fiscal instruments and economic assumptions, and the two parties' political narratives seem to exist in parallel universes. In these sorts of situations, I typically assume the reality is somewhere in-between the two nodes of partisan spin. Fortunately, this time New Hampshire Public Radio’s Dan Gorenstein has attempted to get to the bottom of this very question. You can listen to his story (or read the transcript) here. As you might expect, each party comes at the question from a different set of underlying assumptions about how you correctly calculate spending. And, not surprisingly, their assumptions tend to underscore their respective political agendas.


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