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April 5: House-passed budget moves to Senate

Saturday, April 4, 2015 4:34
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(Before It's News)

The two-year state budget, which started as an $11.5 billion proposal from Gov. Maggie Hassan and was trimmed to $11.2 billion by House lawmakers, is now in hands of state senators.

The House vote to trim the budget by about $300 million, carried by the Republican majority,was full of strum and drang. Democrats in the House, along with the Democratic governor, pilloried the spending plan along with advocates of programs whose funding would be cut.

“It's a balancing act and I think the House produced a budget that will meet the basic needs of the state of New Hampshire,” Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper of Hudson was quoted as saying in a Seacoast Online story.

Democrats saw it differently.

“Their wildly irresponsible budget includes drastic reductions to services that are critical to our people and businesses, further downshifting on local property taxpayers, the raiding of the dedicated Renewable Energy Fund, continued budget gimmicks that mislead people about what we actually are funding, and the depletion of our Rainy Day Fund, which threatens our state’s financial outlook and bond rating,” Hassan said in a statement.

Added House Democratic Leader Stephen Shurtleff of Penacook: “The O’Brien-Jasper budget that passed today brings new meaning to the word ‘irresponsible,’ and was designed simply to get the blessing of Bill O’Brien and the Koch Brothers.”

Senate Democrats say they’ll try, as they say, “to fix” the damage they see inflicted by the House. In a press conference they said they want to keep Medicaid expansion, keep the rainy day fund untouched, and not redirect dedicated funds.

But the Senate is also controlled by Republicans, and Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem said in an NHPR story: “There was a lot of good work that went into the budget up onto those changes were made to make the final balancing. We will take a look at the whole thing, but I’m sure there will be more we agree upon than disagree on.”

Morse also indicated a desire to keep the rainy day fund intact.

The House budget stays away from tax or fee increases. It does approve the licensing of Keno games in restaurants and bars, which is forecast to raise $9 million a year in revenue.

The budget level funds the university system to its current amount of spending. It cuts health and human service programs, such as drug addiction programs and services to residents with developmental disabilities. It shifts money from dedicated funds such as the Renewable Energy Fund to the state Department of Transportation budget. Money from the rainy day fund would go to sustain the current school funding formula.

The Senate has until June 30 to craft a budget, reach consensus with the House, and get the package to Gov. Hassan for her consideration.

The new two-year budget will be in effect for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017.

The last time a Republican House and Republican Senate crafted a budget was in 2011, and it was so unsavory to then Democratic Gov. John Lynch that he let it become law without his signature.

In other news

The Keene Pumpkin Festival is no more, at least in Keene for this year. The city council there refused to grant the license for this year’s festival, concerned about a repeat of last fall’s riots during the festival. See a WMUR report here.

Gov. Hassan visited the Lincoln Ackerman School in North Hampton this week to apologize for the behavior of certain Republican legislators when they considered – and voted down — the grade schoolers’ request to make the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor.

“We wouldn't want our own bills to be discussed the way they discussed your bill, they shouldn't treat other adults like that and they shouldn't treat you like that,” Hassan said in a Seacoast Online story.

Legislators kidded about an official hot dog and suggested the hawk should be the symbol of Planned Parenthood.

Misguided remarks weren’t the sole purview of House Republicans, either. Democratic Rep. Michael Cahill of Newmarket, frustrated by cuts in social service programs, said. “”Since we are refusing to raise revenues to fund needed programs, to fund services to disabled, for example, have you looked at euthanasia?” He later acknowledged his comments were not appropriate. See an NH1 story here.

Here’s what we’ve got going on over on Facebook: We’re talking about the House-passed budget, the abortion clinic buffer zone proposed repeal, and pulling kids out of Common Core standardized tests. Join in on the conversation.

Live Free or Die Alliance


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