The seventh program of “Facing the Future” covered a variety of topics, including the budget process, the 2020 presidential election and funding to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. I was joined on the show by Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby and Concord’s New Hampshire State Director Tyler Sweeney.
With potential presidential candidates already coming to New Hampshire, which is certainly early in the cycle, Bixby said Concord is planning for the 2020 election campaign.
He hopes that addressing budget deficits will be a top priority for the 2020 presidential candidates, even after many candidates failed to adequately do so in the 2016 election cycle. But deficits had been going down in the years before that election and many voters were not focused on the long-term fiscal picture.
“We could be looking at a trillion-dollar deficit by 2020, and I do believe that will get people’s attention,” Bixby said.
To potential candidates, he says: “Whatever your proposals are...they need to be done in the context of the fact that we have an unsustainable budget situation.”
He emphasized that candidates’ spending proposals should be focused on the long term and be paid for: “If somebody is going to run saying ‘We are going to leave the major spending programs alone, we are going to spend more on defense and we are going to cut taxes,’ it’s not a credible plan for dealing with the deficit.”
Sweeney said voters need to view responsible fiscal policy as a priority so that candidates will do so as well.
“From a grassroots perspective, I think the best way to get the budget into the forefront of people’s minds is to tie it into other things that they care about,” Sweeney said.
One such issue is the national struggle with opioid abuse. Lawmakers and President Trump have proposed increases in funding to support opioid abuse prevention.
“This is a national crisis that deserves a national response,” Bixby said. “There are a lot of things to look at in terms of implementation, but overall this is an area where both Democrats and Republicans agree we need to spend more money.”
Sweeney shared a story of struggle and recovery that hit close to home for his family, and he underscored the broad reach of the crisis: “This is the kind of issue that just transcends partisan politics.”
The push for funding on opioid treatment and abuse prevention highlights the need for elected officials to complete the federal budget process on time.
“We should have completed the Fiscal 2018 budget back in September,” Bixby said. “We are a little bit behind.” (Congress finally approved an omnibus spending bill for Fiscal 2018 just last week.)
Bixby said delays as the result of the broken budget process tend to reward inefficient spending, penalize efficient spending and waste money.
“It’s no way to run a government,” he said.
Bixby thinks it likely that many of the issues that bogged down the budget process for Fiscal 2018 will come up again for Fiscal 2019.
I host “Facing the Future” each week on WKXL Concord News Radio (N.H.), which is also available via podcast. Join us as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.