Supermajority Requirement to Increase Taxes at Odds with Sound Fiscal Policy

Jeff Lynch talks about the attempt of the GOP to once again put a financial stranglehold on New Hampshire’s revenue system with a constitutional amendment to basically restrict most funding avenues by requiring a 3/5 majority.

As if this hasn’t been tried already with disastrous results in California, bringing the state to its proverbial knees, causing a grid black-out and other financial and infrastructure disasters, leading finally to Proposition 25 which passed in 2010 by the people, ending what some said amounted to a rule by minority.

You’d think maybe the CACR’s supporters just don’t know about the potential disaster such an amendment could cause.  But this isn’t the first time the GOP in New Hampshire has tried push this poison pill to the people .  Oh and then there was CACR 13 from 2012 too.  Obviously ignorance of the possible consequences such a measure would deal the people of New Hampshire really isn’t a justifiable excuse.

Actually it doesn’t seem too far off to draw the conclusion that there’s simply indifference to the possible ways in which dramatic cuts and budget stalemates would effect the citizens.  This kind of budgetary strangulation will effectively starve government services; a chief aim of a Republican party hell-bent since Roosevelt’s New Deal on destroying any remnant of the social contract.  Raising living standards be damned, bringing all people up to minimal decency be damned, let the unfortunate starve and rot in the gutter to save a few of the greedy from paying their fair share.

by Jeff Lynch of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute

The New Hampshire House of Representatives will soon consider a measure, CACR 1,[CACR = Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution] to amend the state’s constitution to require that an increase in any existing tax or license fee or the creation of a new tax or license fee be approved by three-fifths of both chambers of the legislature.

In each of the past two legislatures, the House rejected attempts to amend New Hampshire’s constitution in the manner envisioned by CACR 1.   Those decisions were well founded, for such constraints not only are at odds with sound fiscal policy, but also erode New Hampshire’s democratic institutions. Indeed, the experiences of other states with similar restrictions in place, as well as those of at least one New Hampshire municipality, demonstrate quite clearly the adverse consequences that can result from inflexible supermajority requirements. More specifically:

 The proposed amendment would undermine New Hampshire’s democratic institutions and empower a very small number of legislators to block action on important priorities.

Proponents of a supermajority requirement have argued that such a requirement would ensure that the decision to increase taxes or fees would reflect broad consensus among members. In reality, a supermajority requirement would increase the likelihood of partisan gridlock at the State House, as it would cede control over any number of important priorities to a minority of the legislature. Ten individuals – the number of Senators required to keep that 24 member chamber from achieving a three-fifths supermajority – could forestall passage of a tax increase. Worse still, they could also delay or halt consideration of other critical legislation, such as the state budget, as they withhold their backing of a tax increase in exchange either for support for state projects in their own districts or for concessions on other, potentially unrelated issues.

Independent analysts and observers in other states have expressed these same concerns. In 1998, the bipartisan California Citizens’ Budget Commission assessed the Golden State’s budget process and argued that its two-thirds vote requirement for approving a budget:

places the power to control or block the budget into the hands of a small minority …thereby promoting gridlock and enhancing special interest group influence. It also allows political parties in the Legislature to avoid responsibility for unpopular budget decisions and blame them on others. The public is left finding it difficult to hold anyone, including the Governor, responsible.[ii]

– Read the rest at: NH Fiscal Policy Institute

h/t to Mark Fernald

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