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July 4: Fiscal year starts without state budget

Saturday, July 4, 2015 5:18
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(Before It's News)

Happy Fourth of July everyone, and – in a sense — happy new year, at least, in the fiscal year sense.

The fact that July 1 marked the start of fiscal 2016 is significant in New Hampshire because the state doesn’t have a new budget to start the new fiscal year.

The Granite State operates on a two-year revenue and spending plan. The new budget was scheduled to start on July 1 and run through June 30, 2017.

Instead, the state is operating on money approved in a continuing resolution created by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan to keep government services operating for six months.

That’s supposed to give the Republican-dominated Legislature and the Democratic governor time to work out differences over an $11.3 billion biennium budget approved by the Legislature but vetoed by the governor.

According to an NHPR report, the last time a budget was vetoed was in 2003 by then Republican Gov. Craig Benson. The continuing resolution at that time was based on the coming year’s proposed spending. This current continuing resolution is based on spending levels in last year’s budget, which puts a lot of departments and agencies in a bit of flux.

The state’s university system, for example, has announced that announced that expense cuts will need to be made and in-state tuition rates will need to rise 2.75 percent this year in order to address a $9 million state funding shortfall at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth University, Keene State College and Granite State College. See a Foster’s Daily Democrat story here.

Republican leadership says it wants to wait until September to start budget negotiations because lawmakers will have the details on the size of the state’s projected surplus – currently estimated at $49 million. The size of that surplus — and how it should be budgeted – is a point of contention between the governor and budget writers.

Also in Concord

There were other measures taken up by the governor this week.

She allowed SB 86, relative to the procurement of goods and services by the state, to become law without her signature.

Hassan, in a statement, said: “While I am in favor of Senate Bill 86’s goals and the efficiency measures it strives to achieve, including the extension of the State Procurement Study Committee, it also could be perceived as unintentionally changing some time frames that could release contracts before they have been reviewed by the Department of Justice and potentially open up the state to litigation. This legal issue was first raised to both the Legislature and myself too late in the legislative process to make the necessary amendment to address this issue this session.”

Gov. Hassan signed SB 88, which creates a study committee to explore extending commuter rail services in New Hampshire through public-private partnerships.

Gov. Hassan had sought $4 million in the capital budget to study extending the commuter rail from Boston into Nashua and Manchester. But that request was rejected.

“Though I am disappointed that the legislature’s capital budget did not include the funding that I proposed for the environmental and engineering work that this vital project requires, I appreciate their efforts on building the innovative public-private partnerships that we are known for in New Hampshire and that are critical to moving commuter rail forward,” the governor said in signing the bill.

And the governor announced that on Monday she will sign SB 106, which restricts the sale and possession of synthetic drugs. The governor’s office noted that last August Hassan declared a state of emergency following at least 44 overdoses from a synthetic cannabinoid in a 72-hour period.

Hands free

July 1 typically marks the day that new legislation becomes law. The most significant law this year that took effect on Wednesday was the hands-free law regarding the use of smartphones in a motor vehicle.

Authorities say in the last four years, driver distraction was the cause of 124 crashes on New Hampshire's roads.

The law provides for a $100 fine for a first offense, larger fines for repeat offenses.

2016 election

Kelly Ayotte has made it official on Wednesday. The Republican said she will seek re-election to another six-year term in the U.S. Senate. See a Concord Monitor story here.

The other shoe to drop is who might oppose her on the Democratic side, and everyone seems to be waiting for Gov. Hassan to make an announcement one way or the other. She has insisted her priorities right now are working with the Legislature to enact a new state budget.

The long holiday weekend attracted a lot of announced candidates and likely candidates for president to this first-in-the-nation primary state. The who’s who and who’s where is covered in a report from WMUR.

Please remembers that we’re always chatting away on our Facebook page. Come on over and contribute your two cents.

Live Free or Die Alliance


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