There was a huge demonstration outside the New Hampshire State House yesterday. As the Republican majority House voted on two budget bills, one which does away with so-called “evergreen” clauses in public employee contracts, many of those same public employees were protesting against the move (and the budget), saying the budget cuts went too far and that their collective bargaining rights were being taken away.
The House passed a $10.2 billion biennial budget (New Hampshire state budgets run for two years), a decrease of $742 million from the present budget. This move was made to address an estimated $800 million shortfall within the present budget.
It was no surprise the Democrats in the legislature wanted to increase spending rather than cutting it, tried to revise the revenue estimates upwards to allow for more spending (something they did for the previous two budgets, which is how the state came to be $800 million in the hole to begin with), and raise taxes and fees again to pay for more spending (something they also did during the previous two budgets with the result of less revenue being collected than projected).
Some of the budget cuts will hit services hard, but many of those services were boosted beyond all reason during the previous 4 years. Some see these cuts as a return to more reasonable and sustainable levels until the economy recovers. During those 4 years the Democrat majority House and Senate increased state spending 30%, well above the rate of inflation or population growth over that time. The frugality usually seen in the State House was nowhere to be seen during those 4 years. Now it's time for the state to live within its means.
The public employees unions were not pleased with the move to strip evergreen clauses from contracts. Those clauses allow an expired union contract to remain in force until a new contract is agreed upon and ratified by the union members. With the removal of evergreen clauses public employees would become employees-at-will (like most of the rest of us) if the old contract expires before a new contract is ratified.
I have a question I must ask of those public employees protesting inside and outside the State House: How many of you took paid time off from work to be there?
While there were supporters of the bills also at the State House, they weren't nearly as numerous as those protesting against them. It wasn't that there weren't more supporters of the legislature's efforts. It's that most of us were at work, making the money taxed to pay the public employees salaries and benefits.
Talk about irony.