August 18, 2003, 12:00 P.M.
Someone needs to tell Governor Benson that the term “silly season” doesn’t really apply to the State Budget; It applies to primary politics, but from the look of things on the state budget front, Benson hasn’t gotten the message.
With no understanding of the consequences, our state legislators and the governor have stripped testing money, required by the federal No Child Left Behind law, from the state budget. As reported by the associated press and published in the Concord Monitor and Laconia Daily Sun, this action could have dire consequences for schools considered “failing schools” under NCLB. More significant however, is the clear indication that the Benson budget cuts are, in many instances unrealistic and ill conceived. Coupled with the debate over the funding of the state court system and the budget debacle in general, it is clear that the budget being pushed by the Governor will serve to deepen the states fiscal crisis and will result in an increased burden on local taxpayers.
The gist of this week’s budget machination seems to be that the state wants the federal government to allow it to use federal funds to administer tests required by the new federal law. There is no money in the state budget for the development and administration of statewide tests. While the state tries to get the federal government to allow the federal funds to administer the current tests and to develop the new tests, schools labeled as failing will have no way to demonstrate the required “Adequate Yearly Progress” needed to get off of the failing schools list. The States failure to administer the tests will also jeopardize millions of dollars to schools because if the state does not administer the tests, it will not be in compliance with the Federal No Child Left Behind law. The result of non-compliance would be the loss of all federal funding to schools that get Title 1 funding.
Last week we that the governor accused the court system of playing games with the lives of employees in order to drive home their message about the method of funding the courts. In this discussion, the courts argue that they should be funded much like a dependent school district. In other words, the legislature should fund the court by providing a bottom line budget, and the court administrators would decide how the money should be spent. This actually makes sense since the Court system is an independent, constitutionally established branch of government, like the executive and legislative branches. The legislature, and the governor, believe that the state legislature should have line item control over the operations of the state Probate, District, Municipal, Superior and Supreme Courts even though the courts operate independent of the other branches of government.
The fact is that the legislature has no collective idea of what running the court system entails, nor should it. The Administrative office of the Courts (AOC) was established for that purpose and manages the courts under the direction of the Supreme Court. For the AOC to not have authority to move money within the budget is just plain dumb. This is just another example of Bensons overly simplistic “Government as a Business Approach”, and his lack of understanding of how a constitutional, representative, state government actually works.
Further proof of this fact is Bensons endorsement of the Free States Project this week. You will recall that the Free States Project is a Libertarian organization looking to relocate 20,000.00 people to a state that will be, in their opinion, receptive to their ideal form of government. New Hampshire has been targeted a prime location and the governors endorsement will no doubt push New Hampshire to the top of the list for this hostile takeover. An obvious problem, among others, is that the 20,000 or so devoted followers of the Free State Movement will not be bringing jobs with them, and their infiltration will not provide a boost to the local economy. Another problem is that these people want to come here in order to implement a philosophy, not to enjoy the splendid benefits that our state and our communities afford. The Governor seems to have lost sight of the fact that we need jobs in this state, not more people to compete for the ones we have. He has also lost sight of the fact that there are reasons of government, environment, economy and lifestyle that make New Hampshire special. His loss of support among councilors, legislators and voters is evidence that his foibles are not going unnoticed. If the consequenses were not so serious, this governor would look downright silly.