If you’ve been wondering how the state budget battle might play out through the dog days of summer, the past week provided some insight. None of it, however, seems very promising for a smooth resolution.
It started last Thursday, when Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper sent a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan – which he then emailed to the entire Legislature – urging Hassan to “release” Democratic legislators to vote to override her budget veto.
“The cleanest and clearest path forward for you would be to politically free all 170 of our colleagues from across the aisle, allowing them to vote their conscience on veto day,” Jasper wrote.
Jasper’s letter set off quite a back-and-forth among House members in subsequent emails. Multiple legislators of both parties claimed to have suffered insult, as they argued over who was most to blame for the budget impasse.
Jasper himself jumped into the digital dialogue. At one point, he addressed the most contentious piece of the Republican-backed budget plan: a proposal to cut the state's business tax rates over the next three years.
“As to the business tax cuts,” Jasper wrote, “ I do not believe that cutting them will bring in more revenue, nor do I believe that by themselves they will make New Hampshire a more attractive state for businesses to locate to or to expand.”
For Democrats, this line amounted to an admission by Republicans that their main defense of the tax cuts – lower tax rates will boost the state’s economy by luring new businesses – doesn’t add up. Republicans, meanwhile, said Democrats took Jasper’s words out of context, particularly his subsequent statement that “I do believe that (business tax cuts) are pieces of a very large puzzle.”
Then, throughout the day Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans traded accusations over which party bore responsibility for delays in increased funding for substance abuse programs. And finally, on Wednesday afternoon, Hassan sent her own letter to Jasper, which she also shared with the press. It seemed unlikely to calm the waters:
“Your suggestion that the vote by Democrats against this fiscally irresponsible budget was anything but a vote of conscience is particularly disappointing and a departure from the respectful tone that you vowed to promote as Speaker,” Hassan wrote.
Hassan also told Jasper that her “door remains open” to Republican leaders, but she gave no indication they should expect a warm welcome: “Sadly, your letter simply reiterated your unwillingness to come to the table in good faith,” she wrote.
At this point, it’s difficult to imagine how any of this will lead to a budget resolution. Republicans have indicated they'll wait until at least September to return to the table. By which point, perhaps, tempers will have cooled a bit.