The governor's veto of the 2016/17 budget was successfully overridden on September 16. I am especially pleased that we were able to come together, get this budget in place, and continue to move our state in the right direction.
Five years ago when I started my first term, Senate Republicans crafted a long-term plan to restore the "New Hampshire Advantage". The plan included some core principles to correct a course that had put our state on an unsustainable path. These principles included:
— Putting our fiscal house in order by producing truly balanced budgets that rely on realistic revenues without new taxes or fees, and rebuilds our rainy day fund.
— Supporting our most vulnerable citizens by ensuring adequate funding for important programs like Service Link, Meals on Wheels, the developmentally disabled, mental health, and drug and alcohol services.
— Reforming the way government does business by reducing costs and shrinking the size of government while still maintaining core services.
— Creating a more business-friendly state by reducing regulation, streamlining and updating existing laws, and instituting business tax reforms.
As I look back over the accomplishments of the last five years, what stands out is the resolve shown by our elected officials to deliver on what the voters of New Hampshire sent them to Concord to do. Republicans have held the majority in the Senate since 2011 and we have delivered on the promises we've made.
We have produced budgets that are balanced, without new taxes or fees, and have started the process of re-building New Hampshire's rainy day fund, from $9.3 million in the 2012/13 budget to a projected $24 million in the 2016/17 budget.
Beginning with the repeal of many of the 80+ taxes and fees instituted prior to the 2011/12 legislative session, we have been consistent in holding the line on new taxes and fees including rejecting the governor's more recent proposal for millions of dollars in increases on drivers, smokers, and small business.
We've also held as a priority, assuring that effective, cost-saving programs and services for our most vulnerable citizens are supported. From funding mental health and developmental disabilities to emergency shelters and Meals on Wheels, we understand the need for these critical programs. Whether it was restoring funding to the Children In Need of Services program in the 2012/13 budget or restoring cuts made by Governor Hassan to the home health agencies in this budget — we have been steadfast advocates for our most vulnerable population.
The Senate also understood the need to reform state government and enacted legislation throughout the last five years that has produced positive results. This includes legislation requiring state agencies to submit reduced spending alternatives when they build their budgets; requiring consolidation of government contracts that allows the state to use economies of scale to bring down costs; and the elimination of 1,000 vacant government positions.
We did all this and still provided core services like keeping our troopers on the road and our DMV stations open; providing more funding to repair our roads and bridges and sending money back to our cities and towns by funding state aid grants, flood control, and rooms and meals distribution.
We also understood that policies enacted by government can hurt or help job creation in the private sector. So, to strengthen economic and job growth in our state, we began laying the groundwork for creating a more business-friendly environment.
We started with legislation like eliminating the state's tax on gambling earnings, reforming workers' compensation, updating and reforming New Hampshire's securities laws, increasing research and development tax credits and finally bringing forward modest business tax cuts that will restore New Hampshire's competitiveness over neighboring states.
Today, New Hampshire ranks fourth lowest in the nation at 3.6 percent for unemployment. This means we have been able to consistently put more Granite Staters back in the workforce when compared to December 2010 when over 42,000 friends and neighbors were out of work (5.5 percent unemployment).
When we look to and rely heavily on our business community to provide the revenues to pay for our spending priorities, it is important that we assure they can be competitive in today's world.
By holding the line on spending, keeping taxes low, and reducing the red tape from Concord, the Legislature is allowing the economy to grow, free from government burdens. Businesses can feel comfortable hiring and investing because they trust that the current legislature's priorities are designed to help, not hurt their success. Combined, these efforts will help us preserve and strengthen the "New Hampshire Advantage", attract new business, and ensure New Hampshire continues to lead.
You've heard the saying, "leave it better than you found it..." I am proud to say that in the New Hampshire Senate, we have done just that.
(Meredith Republican Jeanie Forrester represents District 2 in the N.H. Senate.)
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