Originally Printed in The Valley News

Dear John: We’re sorry but this relationship just isn’t working out

Dear John: This isn’t easy to say, especially after 3½ years. We had high hopes – we really did – that our relationship would grow stronger with the passage of time. And for a while there, back in November 2006, when the Democrats rose to power in the Legislature, we felt optimistic about our future together. But quite frankly, Governor Lynch, we feel a bit betrayed.

You said you’d work to make real progress on the issues important to New Hampshire families – improving education and all sorts of other good things. But we’re beginning to think you have a problem with commitment, even ones you made.

Lately you seem distracted, conflicted. Do you have eyes on someone else? Like that Joe Kenney fellow who says he’ll challenge you in November? We don’t believe you’re worried.

After all, they don’t call you “Mr. 70 Percent” for nothing. With an approval rating like that, everyone says you’re a shoo-in.

Of course, that’s part of your problem, John. You’re so into popularity that you can’t think straight.

We know: Bold, decisive action isn’t your thing. You’re more lemming than leader. Like last year, when you couldn’t figure out what you really thought about civil unions. You had to ask around, remember? In the end, though, you came through.

It’s bad enough not to know your own mind about a wedge issue like civil unions, John, but maybe worse to act like a wimp when the issue is the education of schoolchildren. Twice you insisted on a constitutional amendment that would have released you from your obligation to provide an adequate education for all, as mandated by the state Supreme Court, even though you knew an amendment’s chances were about as good as a snowball’s in hell.

And then you remained strangely silent about whether you’d support the school-funding plan backed by your own party, a plan intended to pay for an adequate education as the Legislature lamely defined it.

Is the fiscal commitment just too much for you, John?

Or is it that the Legislature’s idea of adequacy – $3,450 per pupil – rendered you speechless? The session was a bit hard to take.

Lawmakers added on a bit here and there for special education and for children learning to speak English and then more for schools with higher concentrations of poor children and then more for districts with smaller tax bases and lower median incomes, and then they promised a two-year transition period during which time no town would receive a reduction in aid and no town slated to receive an increase would get more than 15 percent, and they held harmless all the property-wealthy “donor towns” just like you wanted and … oh, never mind.

We don’t want to talk about it.

We’d have more respect for you, John, if you tried to stop this nonsense. Instead, you make matters worse every time you claim that the court constrains you from directing more aid to the communities with the greatest needs. You said it again the other day, when you allowed the funding plan to become law without your signature.

How many times do we have to remind you? The Supreme Court’s decisions do not prevent targeted aid so long as the state also pays for adequacy. Don’t you get it?

Look, John, almost every other state in the union has figured out (sometimes also under court order) that property taxes aren’t the most equitable way to pay for public education, and they’ve managed to raise revenue some other way, through an income tax or a sales tax or something.

Tell us, what are you going to do next year when the state, facing a budget deficit of more than $200 million, has to come up with at least $45 million more for the Legislature’s school-funding plan?

What are you going to do when legislators start bickering again over education costs? Are you going to propose another constitutional amendment and retreat to your room to watch “Groundhog Day”?

This just isn’t working out. We need time alone to think. And, John, so do you.