Manchester, N.H. — Newt Gingrich’s fourth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary showcased a first-rate idea.
While addressing a hotel ballroom full of his forlorn supporters in the Radisson’s Center of New Hampshire here, the former House speaker praised a new Granite State budget procedure that is so commonsensical, it is startling that it deserves applause.
The New Hampshire State House of Representatives, “actually had the Ways and Means Committee report first,” Gingrich explained in his election-night remarks. “It indicated how much money they would have, and they then actually adopted a budget to fit their income, which is the opposite of every other state I know of in the country which writes a budget and then tries to go find more of your money to fill in what they think they need. The result was a very courageous and a very serious effort in which they cut 11 percent out of spending, which is a remarkable achievement. If it were accomplished in Washington, it would begin to move us back on the right track.”
What a concept!
Like a new automobile model whose designers boast that it features brakes, this legislative reform is so logical, one wonders why it had to be installed in the first place. Apparently, Republican legislators applied the brakes just in time.
“The 25 percent spending increase over the past two budgets, fueled by more than 100 tax and fee increases, was destroying the low-tax, limited-government environment that makes our state special and differentiates us from the rest of the states around us,” New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien and House Finance Committee chairman Ken Weyler wrote last June in a report to Granite State taxpayers. “Instead of figuring out how much the state wants to spend and then torturing revenue projections to meet that figure, as prior legislatures have done, we made a commitment to honest budgeting. The earlier method of ‘Spend first, ask questions later’ left New Hampshire ranked as one of the worst states for predicting revenue in the nation. . . . The House tax panel was too often told to inflate revenues to meet exponentially growing spending.”
“We changed this to a process of getting realistic revenue estimates and demanding that spending be cut to meet these honest figures,” O’Brien and Weyler added. “Today, we can say that our budget was built by cutting spending, not by inflating tax estimates or increasing taxes and fees.”
This initiative pleased the New Hampshire Union Leader. As the influential newspaper (which kindly runs my column) editorialized on January 1, “Republicans set to work on bringing the budget in line with the realities of state revenues. Over the protests of Democrats, labor unions and some recipients of state funding, House and Senate budget writers stuck to their plans. They wound up with a budget that cut state spending in real terms by more than 10 percent and also cut taxes.”
The Union Leader’s endorsement, however, was not enough to propel Gingrich past Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, or Mitt Romney, all of whom beat him in the Granite State primary. Amid activists waving signs that read “Mitt Zombie — No Soul Politician” and “A.B.R.: Anybody but Romney,” a very lively band played 1970s hits, including a Taste of Honey’s “Boogie No More.” (It’s funny how a song that would have elicited cries of “Death to disco!” 34 years ago now is safe enough for an election-night party.) Alas for Gingrich, neither the placards nor the tunes concealed the fact that fourth place is light years from even a bronze medal.
Nonetheless, Newt Gingrich buoyantly promised his troops: “I will do everything I can to win the opportunity to represent you this fall in debating and then defeating Barack Obama!” With that, the crowd of some 250 cheered and then bolted immediately for the exits. Within two minutes, the room was virtually depopulated, as if the Newtonians had been extracted with a vacuum cleaner.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.