The budget season has started here in New Hampshire, with towns, cities, and the state working to put together budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.
It may be the recent win by self-declared fiscal conservatives in state and national elections that have driven home the point that the taxpayers have had enough of profligate spending and will be watching their elected officials much more closely than they have in the past.
Our little town has been way ahead of the pack, with the selectmen and the budget committee scrutinizing every penny and making cuts to keep spending in check during these difficult economic times. Should both entities get their way, our town's budget for the next fiscal year will be smaller than this year's, the third year in a row for that trend. The same is true of the school budget. (Like most towns and cities in New Hampshire, the municipal and school budgets are entirely separate. But in towns like ours with an elected budget committee, the committee reviews and votes whether or not to recommend the warrants articles from both.)
At the state level the governor has already warned state agencies to prepare for tough choices they'll have to make.
The previous two budgets increased spending by more than 30% over the past 4 years (New Hampshire has a two-year budget), but this time around the Democrat governor has to deal with an overwhelmingly Republican legislature (74.5% of the seats in the 400 seat New Hampshire House are in the hands of the GOP, as are 79% of the seats in the state Senate). During the previous two budgets the governor had a Democrat majority in the legislature to back up his spending plans. Assuming the Republicans in the legislature follow through on their promises to keep spending in check, if not roll back some expenditures and the taxes that go with them, it can be expected that state spending will remain flat, if not decrease from the present biennial budget. And should the governor veto a lean GOP budget, both chambers of the legislature have the votes to override it.
It will be interesting to watch the budget deliberations at the local and state level and compare it to what will be going on in Washington during the 112th Congress. Our Representatives and our Senators in Congress know we will be watching closely and will be more than willing to throw them out if they don't do as so many at the state and local level have done: keep spending and taxes in check.