Senate budget writers restore many cuts in House plan

Last modified: 5/25/2015 1:09:57 AM
With the benefits of more time and money, Senate budget writers are crafting a two-year state spending plan that restores many of the cuts made by their House counterparts in April.

The Senate Finance Committee began detailing its budget plan last week and will finalize it this week. It heads to the Senate floor June 4. Final spending numbers in the Senate budget haven’t been tallied, making it hard to compare to the House’s $11.2 billion plan or see how the plan is balancing.

The current $10.7 billion budget ends June 30, and the Senate’s document is still subject to change as they negotiate a final spending plan with the House and Gov. Maggie Hassan. Here’s a look at some of the changes:

Higher education

The Senate’s budget restores a last-minute $2.5 million cut to the community college system in the House budget. Officials say the change means it can freeze tuition for the next two years.

The university system also gets a boost to $82 million annually in the Senate plan. That’s more than the House provided, but far less than it wanted. The system received $69 million in fiscal year 2014 and $84 million in fiscal year 2015. Officials have already said the money provided is not enough to freeze in-state tuition.

Public schools

The Senate’s budget further tweaks public school funding. Schools receive state aid on a per-student basis, but existing law says no district can get more than 108 percent of what it got the year before. That means rapidly growing districts may not be getting all the money they are owed. The Senate’s plan raises the cap to 140 percent in 2017 and eliminates it in 2018.

The Senate’s budget also begins reducing “stabilization grants” by 4 percent each year starting in 2017. The grants were put in place several years ago to protect districts from funding formula changes.

Fast-growing districts will receive more under this plan, but large districts like Nashua and Manchester will lose some. Bedford schools, for example, would see a $1.3 million increase in 2017 while Manchester would lose about $500,000.


The state Department of Transportation is looking to a federal program to help ease some of the budget pressures on the state. The program allows the state to defer paying down the bonds for the Interstate 93 expansion project.

The move would free up about $20 million annually for paving and bridge repair projects, said Patrick McKenna, deputy commissioner of transportation. Over nine years, that will provide enough to pay for work on about 40 percent of the state’s roads, and repair 30 percent of deficient bridges on the state’s “red list.”

Substance abuse

Senate budget writers do not plan to continue funding the state’s drug czar, a newly hired employee dedicated to coordinating response efforts for drug and alcohol abuse, when a grant by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation ends next year. Funding the job would cost $184,000 over the two-year budget.

The Senate’s budget puts $6.5 million into the state’s alcohol abuse prevention and treatment fund. Republican senators say some of that could be used for a similar position, but Democrats say it’s irresponsible to stop funding the czar’s job.

Renewable energy fund

Senators moved to restore roughly $50 million to the state’s renewable energy fund after sharply criticizing the House for raiding the so-called dedicated fund. But days later, senators moved to take $2.2 million back out of the fund for homeland security and emergency management.


Senators also restored:

∎ $4 million for overtime pay in the Department of Corrections.

∎ $10 million to the rainy day fund, which the House had emptied.

∎ $3.7 million for tourism promotion.

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