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Hassan names panel of state officials, experts to estimate N.H. budget revenues

Gov. Maggie Hassan yesterday named a panel of experts and state officials to come up with revenue estimates as the state assembles its next two-year budget.

The executive order – the first Hassan has issued since taking office Jan. 3 – fulfills a campaign promise by the Democrat, who last September said she’d appoint a Consensus Revenue Estimating Panel to come up with reasonable revenue figures to help balance the budget.

At the time, Hassan’s campaign said in a news release the panel “would bring together economists, state agencies, Republican and Democratic legislators, along with the governor’s office, to develop and update revenue estimates for the state throughout the year.”

The panel named yesterday doesn’t include lawmakers from either party. Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said legislative leaders will be invited to attend the panel’s meetings and information will be shared, but “legislators are not named formal members out of respect for the Legislature’s budget process.”

The committee will be chaired by Hassan’s budget director, Gerard Murphy, and include:

∎ Kevin Clougherty, commissioner of the Department of Revenue Administration.

∎ Linda Hodgdon, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.

∎ Dennis Delay from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.

∎ Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire.

∎ Jeff McLynch from the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

∎ Richard Samuels from the Business and Industry Association.

Both Delay and Gittell are economists. Samuels is a corporate-law attorney and a BIA board member. McLynch is executive director of the liberal-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute.

“A balanced budget is the cornerstone of a strong economy, and a fiscally responsible balanced budget requires revenue estimates that are as reliable and accurate as possible,” Hassan said in a statement. “By bringing together experts from the business community, academia and the public sector, we can work to improve our revenue estimates and ensure more accurate information throughout the budget process.”

The panel will hold its first meeting this afternoon, Hassan’s office said, to begin preparing revenue estimates for the governor’s proposed budget. The panel will continue to meet over the next two years to provide updates.

Hassan must present her budget for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years to the Legislature by Feb. 15. It will go through the Democratic-controlled House before heading to the Republican-controlled Senate this spring; the new biennium begins July 1.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are working on their own revenue estimates. The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hold a work session today on revenues.

And House and Senate Republicans issued statements yesterday saying that they appreciate Hassan’s gesture, but plan to draw up their own estimates.

“In the months ahead, the committee looks forward to considering the recommendations of Gov. Hassan’s revenue panel as another part of our process as we work to develop balanced estimates consistent with a cautious economic outlook,” said Sen. Bob Odell, a Lempster Republican and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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