N.H. ended fiscal 2013 with stronger-than-expected surplus of $76.1 million
The state government ended the last fiscal year with a larger-than-expected surplus of $76.1 million, according to unaudited figures released yesterday.
“A strengthening economy and sound fiscal management from state agencies resulted in a strong surplus, improving our ability to address our fiscal challenges,” said Gov. Maggie Hassan in a statement.
That’s good news for the current state budget, which counted on using $56.9 million in surplus money from fiscal 2013, which ended June 30, to balance the books in fiscal 2014, which began July 1.
The fiscal picture appeared grim early this year. At the end of February, state revenue was running $41.1 million below projections, and lawmakers debated how to close a potential deficit at the end of the biennium.
But strong revenue in the spring, and lawsuit settlements including several involving the gasoline additive MTBE, boosted the budget. Revenue for the general and education funds came in $47.9 million above plan for fiscal 2013, and lower-than-expected spending contributed to an overall budget surplus of $76.1 million.
Ryan Williams, spokesman for the New Hampshire Republican Party, said credit belongs to the Republicans who controlled the Legislature in 2011, when the two-year budget was enacted with minimal Democratic support.
“This surplus is the result of the responsible budget passed by the fiscally conservative Republican Legislature during the last session,” Williams said in a statement. “While Democrats proposed more reckless spending, Republican leaders like Sen. Chuck Morse were able to craft a plan that created jobs and preserved New Hampshire’s fiscal integrity during difficult economic times.”
The entire 2013 surplus will be carried forward to fiscal 2014, and presumably the $19.2 million in surplus not spent in the 2014-2015 budget would be deposited in the state’s rainy day fund at the end of the current biennium – June 30, 2015.
The rainy day fund now contains $9.3 million.
But Hassan, a Democrat, said yesterday she hopes to use some of the money to reduce the $7 million across-the-board cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services included in the current two-year state budget.
She also pointed to the strength of the state’s current balance sheet: In the first three months of fiscal 2014, the state collected $26.9 million more than expected from business taxes and other sources of revenue, according to the Department of Administrative Services. In September alone, revenue was $15.7 million above plan.
“We worked cooperatively to pass a bipartisan budget. At the end of the process, uncertain about revenues, back-of-the-budget cuts were made to the Department of Health and Human Services that no one liked,” Hassan said. “With this surplus, and strong revenues for this year, my hope is we can work in that same cooperative spirit to use a portion of the surplus to begin rebuilding our state’s rainy day fund and a portion to reduce back-of-the-budget cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, which could impact vital programs ranging from services for people with disabilities to child care.”
House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, agreed with Hassan.
“I would gladly join the governor in a cooperative effort to reduce the back-of-the-budget cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services,” Norelli said in a statement. “These cuts would impact vital programs and result in significant job losses, damaging our citizens, our community and our economy.”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)