Our Turn: New Hampshire citizens need a budget – now

Published: 9/19/2019 6:00:23 AM
Modified: 9/19/2019 6:00:12 AM

Today, lawmakers will have the opportunity to vote on a budget compromise – House bills 3 and 4 – that makes meaningful budget concessions to accommodate Gov. Chris Sununu’s concerns, including further reductions in spending, a conditional extension of business tax breaks and the preservation of critical programs Granite Staters depend on.

The people of New Hampshire need a budget now. This summer, we heard from people who are impacted by the current continuing resolution. While budget writers have continued negotiations, cities and towns have delayed infrastructure projects, schools continue to struggle to keep their doors open, Granite Staters with developmental disabilities have been on a wait list for services and up to 35 people a day are waiting in emergency rooms for mental health care.

HB 3 and HB 4 represent a continued willingness on the part of House and Senate budget writers to reach a compromise, because we know delivering a balanced budget that moves New Hampshire forward is a bigger goal than any party priority. That’s why, at Gov. Sununu’s insistence, we previously removed our top priorities – paid family and medical leave and closure of the individual capital gains loophole to fund public schools. While the governor vetoed the budget regardless of those concessions, we remain hopeful that he – and his Republican colleagues in the Legislature – will consider this further compromise with an open mind and the best interests of Granite Staters.

Much of the discussion around budget negotiations has centered on additional tax breaks for businesses, many of which are headquartered outside of New Hampshire’s borders. The promise from Gov. Sununu and Republicans was that cutting business taxes more would energize the economy and raise more revenue. However, we now know that the governor’s supposed budget surplus was overestimated, more than $20 million in business tax refunds have been issued and there are revenue shortfalls projected in this upcoming budget.

Still, Gov. Sununu insists on more business tax breaks. To pay for those giveaways he proposed $158 million in cuts to everything from child protection to mental health to prescription drug assistance for seniors. Gov. Sununu even proposed cutting half a million dollars for suicide hotline services and 5 million dollars for the developmentally disabled wait list.

The governor’s proposed budget cuts are irresponsible and unsustainable. The Legislature has worked diligently to protect these essential programs while conditionally extending the governor’s business tax breaks.

In our compromise budget, HB 3 and HB 4, we extend business tax reductions for this year. That’s all we can afford. Those tax breaks can continue only if the business tax revenues produce as much as the governor and Republicans claim they will. If not, then the tax breaks are not permanent. This is similar to the deal Republicans lawmakers struck with then-Gov. Maggie Hassan after she vetoed the budget, and it’s the only fiscally responsible course of action to take.

Additionally, our compromise budget makes thoughtful reductions in spending to safeguard against a slowing economy while continuing to provide potential property tax relief, fund vital programs and services and adding funding for the state employee contract.

It has been 81 days since Gov. Sununu vetoed the state budget. His approach right now is pushing New Hampshire toward another continuing resolution and potentially a government shutdown. That’s what happens in Washington, D.C. – not New Hampshire.

We are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, which is why we put forward HB 3 and HB 4 – a balanced, fiscally responsible budget that meets the needs of our state. We can’t do this without Republican support. We need a two-thirds vote for the Legislature to consider this budget compromise when it comes before the House.

New Hampshire is counting on House Republicans to allow HB 3 and HB 4 to come to the floor for a thoughtful and robust discussion on the state budget.

If Gov. Sununu and his Republican counterparts in the House and Senate fail to agree on this budget compromise proposal, property taxes will go up when rates are set on Oct. 1 and more Granite Staters will face delays to the care and services they need. That’s not good for anyone.

We were all sent to the State House to improve the lives of Granite Staters. Today, we have the opportunity to do that by passing HB 3 and HB 4. Hopefully, our Republican colleagues will join us to get the job done. New Hampshire citizens, families, communities, school districts and businesses are counting on us all.

(Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester serves as chair of Senate Finance, and Rep. Mary Jane Wallner of Concord serves as chair of House Finance.)




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