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Counties brace for millions in cuts in state funding

County officials are worried about a potential $8 million cut in funding in the House’s proposed two-year state budget.

The cut comes from the House budget proposal increasing the level counties would have to spend on long-term care before using general funds to soften the expense. But the cap increase isn’t the only change in the budget making county officials wary.

The proposal approved by the House also counts as general fund revenue a portion of money raised in a per-bed nursing home tax and federal matching dollars, when the money has historically gone back to nursing homes to compensate for Medicaid reimbursement shortfalls.

Future costs and the impact of the state budget are difficult to forecast, said Betsy Miller, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Counties. Her group provided estimates showing the House budget could cost counties between $1.7 million and $3 million in the first year and between $4.8 million and $8 million the second, in addition to 2013 spending levels.

Together, the two parts of the budget proposal translate into a possible $972,000 increased liability for Merrimack County in the next fiscal year and an additional $625,000 the year after, according to the association.

In the first year of the House’s budget, the cap on county long-term care spending increases $3 million, to $110 million; in the second year, it increases to $115 million. Historically, the cap increased $1 million or $2 million each year.

In her budget presented to the House in February, Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed pushing the cap higher, to $112 million in the first year and $117 million the second.

“The expectation was we would see what we consider a reasonable increase based on some sort of inflation rate, which is how it happened over the past 10 years. If it had been $1 (million) or $2 million we wouldn’t have been surprised,” Miller said. “It’s really the second year, that was a shocker. We didn’t think there was any rational basis for that.”

Pamela Walsh, Hassan’s chief of staff, said the figures came from the original 2007 law dividing up funding responsibilities between the state and the counties and establishing the cap on county liabilities.

“The budget we presented is about focusing on rebuilding and reinvesting in certain areas of the state, including education, long-term care, school building aid. We had to make a lot of tough choices, and one of the choices we made was abiding by the law on the split of expenses between the state and the counties,” she said.

Rep. Neal Kurk of Weare attempted to amend the budget on the House floor Wednesday, suggesting the caps be set at $109 million each of the coming two years. That amendment was defeated, 195-171.

Speaking Tuesday, Kurk said, “anyone who votes against this is voting to raise local property taxes. It all comes out of our same checkbook.”

Seven of the 10 counties, including Merrimack County, have already passed their budgets for the 2013 fiscal year (the county’s fiscal year began Jan. 1; the state’s begins July 1), and could have to convene their delegations for permission to raise more in taxes than previously expected.

Miller said the association is holding a meeting today and will bring its concerns to the Senate, which begins considering the budget next week.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Legacy Comments10

It may seem like democrats raise taxes, but you have to consider how badly the GOP guts programs and services to the most needy. You don't need to be an economist to understand the downshifting of costs. It happens with the federal budget as well. Anyone can slash a budget, when the feds do it, it costs the States, when the States do it, it costs the cities and towns. In either case it costs us the taxpayers. Call it what you want, we won't see any savings.

You are intentionally missing the point. The facts are that the democrats harshly scolded the GOP the last budget cycle for downshifting costs. And what do they do? Craft a budget that downshifts costs. And that would be $millions of dollars on the backs of poor property owners. Also, the democrats suspended $13 million in small business tax credits. The Republicans are in the minority in the house. This is on the democrats. You. Own it, and stop pointing the boney hypocritical finger at someone else for once.

I missed no point, nor do I have a boney finger. But more importantly I really couldn't care any less what party did what. Both parties are more concerned with special interest groups than with the voters of NH. The last House was drunk with power and voters let them know it. I am more concerned with the results than rehashing history and pointing fingers. Oh, and calling me a hypocrite, that's really stings.......... oh wait that was a splinter. I guess it doesn't.

You said "But more importantly I really couldn't care any less what party did what." Thats not true..because you were all "but you have to consider how badly the GOP guts programs and services to the most needy." And now, faced with the fact that the democrats do downshift some serious $$$ to the counties in a budget crafted by you dont care. Yeah...what does it matter. Who cares.

Republicans don't "gut" programs, they try to control the year over year increases associated with those programs asking for 15% to 20% increases. When they stop the huge increases, they are accused of "Draconian cuts". Let's try a little intellectual honesty. The average worker in this country is lucky to get a 3% pay increase but government keeps taking more and more for "programs". Republicans also call for fiscal responsibility in administrating these programs, progressives and Democrats could care less as long as they "feel" better that someone gets something to help them. The issue is that we rely on 'government' for far too much. You can't keep raising taxes and expect the economy to turn around. When you raise taxes to redistribute, you are circulating the same money in the hands of others. The person earning wages gives government more and has less to spend. It does not grow the GDP which is the ONLY way to improve the economy. It is so basic, so related to common sense that I can't understand why progressives just don't get it.

Fire up your checkbook. The democrats are in charge again. Hopefully the senate will inject some sanity into this mess.

Time for an income tax....

An income tax so that the progressive bleeding hearts can waste and spend more money? More wealth redistribution? What about cutting state spending, seems like there are lots of state employee waste and inefficiency and we want to give them more money to play with?

We heard for 2 years how the republicans were going to downshift costs...over and over like a broken record. Yet my property taxes went down. Now, with democrats in charge, it appears they will go up. Now, because democrats actually downshift costs to property owners, the gaggle of simpletons ignore that meme...and gaggle on.

My property taxes went down also. I was blaming it on the the fact that my property lost so much value due to the Bush Recession. I'm not sure I want to thank him for lowering my property tax.

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