A Taxpayer Revolution
By Isaac MacMillen
When New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the proposed U.S. Constitution, the nation's most important founding document was finally brought into full effect. Now, 221 years later, the state may again surge to the forefront of history as its newly enacted local spending caps portend a revolt of the populace against the out-of-control spending so prevalent in today's political “bailout” culture.
In an economic recession, one traditional dilemma for government has been over whether to raise taxes to continue to pay for benefits, cut spending to keep taxes at current levels, or cut taxes and spending.
Unfortunately, the profligate spending habits of many Republicans swept tax-friendly Democrats into office nationwide over the past few election cycles. And now, those Democrats are now considering how to best increase government programs and spending in the midst of this economic downturn. But of course, raising taxes only makes the economic situation worse—especially for middle-income Americans—and New Hampshire residents have finally had enough.
As a result, citizens throughout the state have been preempting their local governments and passing spending caps, to ensure that spending remains at reasonable levels.
And they are not alone in their fight. The spending caps have also been championed by the non-profit organization New Hampshire Advantage Coalition (NHAC), a group committed to pushing for fiscal responsibility and low taxation in order to promote economic growth in the state.
NHAC has helped residents fight for more responsibility in local government, such as the tax cap for Rochester, NH, which passed overwhelmingly last fall. The measures cap taxes and spending to no more than the annual rate of inflation as published by the Department of Labor.
Out of six towns facing the question, only one disapproved of it—and the five who did approve it did so by margins of 13-33 percent. In Kingston, NH, voters approved the measure by a 67-33 percent margin. In Hampstead, the total was 62-38; in Salem, 59-40. Allenstown and Rindge, the two closest, came in at 56-43 and 57-43. Although Hudson rejected it by a 43-57 margin, five out of six is not bad.
On hearing of the victories, NHAC Chairman Michael Biundo stated that New Hampshire taxpayers were “sending a clear message that an efficient government that spends their money wisely is the only path to lower taxes.”
Invigorated by their victories, more New Hampshire residents are planning to approach their own townships with similar proposals, with many drawing upon NHAC's pool of resources to help them.
Citizens in the Hudson township, which rejected the cap, will have a chance to reverse that decision and pass the spending cap later this year. Spending cap proposals will also be seen at over a dozen other local communities—including the cities of Manchester and Concord.
In the case of one town, Merrimack, the city council voted down a spending cap proposal by 6-1, without allowing for public comment. But that has not deterred residents, who are collecting signatures to reintroduce the measure this fall onto the ballot, so that the final decision can be made by those who pay the taxes—not those who spend them.
The fact that so many citizens are actively engaging their local government seen as a sign of hope for a state hit hard by the nation's economic woes. As the New Hampshire's Union Leader editorialized, “If more communities adopted such caps, it is conceivable that they would affect spending at the state level, too. That would be a worthy experiment for New Hampshire municipalities to conduct.”
And, in unyielding American tradition, perhaps this experiment, begun in the very state whose ratification of the Constitution carried such significance, will yet again impact the entire nation.
If taxpayers in other states take note, it could likely spread to their own local governments' spending habits. Maybe soon it will spread to state governments, as well.
And then maybe, just maybe, those in Washington will finally be forced to take note of this genuine grassroots, taxpayer movement—make that revolution—and the message of fiscal responsibility to which they hold.
If that happened, New Hampshire may well have performed its greatest service to the country since they ratified the Federal Constitution—and help launch a nation now in desperate need of return to its decidedly austere fiscal roots.
Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor for ALG News Bureau.