Who Will Make the Serious Decisions?

Blog Post
Sunday, May 06, 2018

During the most recent episode of “Facing the Future,” I took some time to focus on the state-level impacts of federal budget policy. The Concord Coalition recently partnered with the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute to conduct a state/federal budget exercise with class members of “Leadership New Hampshire.”

Phil Sletten, a policy analyst for the institute, joined me on the show. He designed a state budget exercise, modeled after Concord’s Principles & Priorities, for the event. Combining Sletten’s exercise with a modified version of Concord’s exercise enabled participants to examine both state and federal budget policies.

“The design of Leadership New Hampshire is to take people who are already leaders in their community and educate them about New Hampshire,” said Sletten, who is a member of the program’s current class. The combined exercise was conducted during Leadership New Hampshire’s government and politics day at the state capitol.

Slettin received positive feedback from his Leadership New Hampshire classmates and saw them get quite invested in the policy options and discussions.

“Doing these budget exercises allows people to get closer to issues and methods that budgeters go through to decide how we express our values by shifting resources around,” Sletten added.

Some participants had to consider policies from perhaps a more personal perspective, such as knowing someone enrolled in Medicaid or having to endure poor road and bridge conditions in their own communities.

“Thirty percent, roughly, of the state’s operating budget here in New Hampshire is funded through federal transfers,” Sletten said. “When it comes to the importance of federal budget debates on the state, because of programs like Medicaid and transportation aid...federal budget decisions are very important.”

Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, joined this “Facing the Future” program to discuss why Congress should approve a budget resolution for Fiscal 2019.

“Congress is supposed to pass a budget resolution every year that lays out the projected totals for spending and revenues, deficits and debt, and then it breaks it down into more individual categories like discretionary spending or mandatory spending,” Bixby said. “That is supposed to be a framework or guideline by which they can pass spending or revenue bills that would be consistent with the budget resolution.”

He added that the budget resolution should show the next fiscal year and the four following years.

Bixby noted that Congress is already way behind in the budget process, having not even started on a resolution that should have been finished by April 15.

“There is a lot of talk in Washington now about not doing a budget,” Bixby said. “That’s kind of disturbing because we have these large projected budget deficits, and you would think this would be the most important time to do a budget, rather than just let it go.”

He said Congress is reluctant to do a budget resolution because the House and Senate may not agree with each other. That would not look good for Republicans, who control both chambers.

Congress also does not want to own up to the budget deficits it would have to project in a forward-looking budget resolution, he said.

“Let’s just make some hard budgetary choices,” said Bixby. “Let’s get serious.”

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.