Democratic Gov. John Lynch will have to answer politically for his decision yesterday to let the Republican state budget become law without his signature.
He could have vetoed the legislation, fought the good fight against the GOP’s veto-proof majority, in an effort to uphold his social and political principles.
But Lynch is less a politician and more a pragmatist. He saw no long-term gain in a public fight with representatives and senators with the clock ticking down on the June 30 end to the current fiscal year.
He said as much in his statement explaining why the $10.2 billion state budget will become law without his signature.
“Given the legislature’s rejection of proposed remedies to the problems in the budget, it is clear that a veto would not lead to a better budget,” said Lynch.
He added “there could be serious repercussions to the people of our great state if there is no budget in place on July 1: vital services could be unavailable to our citizens, including everything from driver’s license renewal services, permitting required for businesses and critical road repairs.”
The immediate question as to the consequences of his decision rests on whether he’ll seek a fifth term in 2012.
He’s already made state history by being elected in 2010 to a fourth term. And he’s enjoyed tremendous popularity, even in the face of the Republican mid-term juggernaut.
He needs to determine whether there’s more work he feel needs to be done, and whether he can overcome what will likely be a withering Republican attack from Ovide Lamontagne and others flirting with a gubernatorial run.
It’s already started.
Jack Kimball, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said after Lynch’s budget decision that the governor had not shown leadership.
In an email to media with the headline: “NHGOP chair to Governor Lynch: Clean Out Your Desk,” Kimball said Lynch “has failed to lead on the most important issue facing his administration and our state. He is truly powerless, essentially a lame duck choosing to ignore what every taxpayer wants; responsible spending and a balanced budget without raising taxes.”
Lynch will get some political victories. His veto of the “right to work” legislation will likely be upheld. If the budget turns out to be perceived as a disaster by Granite Staters, it could be along-term win for Lynch.
But his budget decision is a big one.
Lynch is like a Sphinx when it comes to political ambition or opportunity.
He won’t give any public hints about whether he’s running for re-election until the moment he announces the decision.
He shouldn’t wait too long.
If Democrats hope to keep the governor’s office and if Lynch decides he’s not the candidate to do it, he should give the party time to get its ducks in order.
If he decides to stay, he’ll need a strategy to turn this threat into an opportunity.
Paul Briand is an editor/blogger for the non-partisan, non-profit Live Free or Die Association.