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$11.9 billion state budget plan rejected, House to try again Thursday

  • House Speaker Shawn Jasper adjourns the chamber for the remainder of the day after the House Finance Committee's proposed budget failed to pass at the State House in Concord on April 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Gov. Chris Sununu hustles through a group of people in the second-floor hallways after the House Finance Committee’s proposed budget failed to pass at the State House in Concord on April 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Gov. Chris Sununu talks to members of the press the afternoon after the House Finance Committee's proposed budget failed to pass at the State House in Concord on April 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Gov. Chris Sununu talks to members of the press the afternoon after the House Finance Committee's proposed budget failed to pass at the State House in Concord on April 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Associated Press
Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Uncertainty remains over whether New Hampshire House Republicans can agree on a budget plan as the chamber runs up against a Thursday deadline for sending a spending plan to the Senate.

The House Finance Committee’s $11.9 billion plan, which was backed by GOP House leaders, was rebuked Wednesday by Democrats and a large cohort of Republicans, forcing the House to adjourn early as lawmakers scrambled for a deal.

Numerous amendments will come forward Thursday, with Democrats proposing plans to win over moderate Republicans and the most fiscally conservative members looking for ways to slash spending.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper and his leadership team offered no compromise amendment of their own, but they expressed optimism a budget would pass. Top House budget writers, including some Democrats, as well as Dunbarton Republican Rep. JR Hoell, a budget detractor, were seen coming in and out of leadership offices Wednesday afternoon.

“I feel really good,” House Majority Leader Dick Hinch said as he left the State House.

The chaos Wednesday began when 66 of 196 Republicans teamed up with Democrats to reject the House Finance Committee’s $11.9 billion two-year spending plan. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s $12.1 billion plan was the blueprint, but House budget writers made significant changes, including nixing $18 million for full-day kindergarten and giving $50 million to communities for property tax relief.

Weare Republican Rep. Neal Kurk, the chief budget writer, pitched it as a carefully crafted conservative budget.

“This is not Congress, this is the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and we run a balanced budget and we live within our means,” he said.

Still, the chamber delved into chaos after 66 of his fellow Republicans banded together with Democrats to reject the spending plan – with one side saying it spends too much money and the other saying it’s too stingy.

The proposed two-year budget is about 5 percent pricier than the existing budget. Democrats tried to sell moderate Republicans on their own version of the budget, which boosts spending even more for substance abuse programs, full-day kindergarten and a host of other priorities.

“We’re in a very unusual and rare situation,” longtime Democratic Rep. Dan Eaton said as he made his pitch.

That plan failed as well, leaving the chamber with no viable budget that could garner enough support to pass. Seasoned representatives on both sides of the aisle warned failure to pass something would cede too much power to the Senate as the budget process moves along. Typically the two chambers meet in June to hammer out differences between their plans. Without its own plan, the House has little to no negotiation power, members warned.

“Let’s not embarrass ourselves and let this die here in the House; let’s come together and tell the Senate this is where we stand,” Republican Rep. Al Baldasaro said. “You can’t get everything you want, no matter what you do.”

Sununu, who spoke to the Republican caucus twice and could be seen hustling through the halls of the State House on Wednesday, said he doesn’t view the dispute as a rejection of his budget.

“Any budget that the governor puts forward, you’re always going to debate out the details,” he said. “I’m fairly confident that we’re going to get something out of the House and move the process along.”