Our Turn: Governor’s budget cuts funding for important programs, services

Published: 3/2/2021 6:00:07 AM

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Hampshire’s federal delegation has secured millions in funds that have propped up New Hampshire’s economy and the state budget.

When Gov. Chris Sununu unveiled his budget, he could have used it as an opportunity to provide the help that New Hampshire people, small businesses, schools, and communities need in these tough times. Instead, Sununu is proposing significant cuts to fund new tax breaks for out-of-state corporations while increasing the burden on New Hampshire property-tax payers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Congress directed more than $9 billion to New Hampshire through the CARES Act, including $1.25 billion – equivalent to almost 75% of New Hampshire’s annual general fund – to support state and local government COVID-19 expenses and to be distributed to New Hampshire businesses and organizations.

For example, $3 billion went to supporting the Paycheck Protection Program, $137 million to pandemic unemployment assistance, $349 million to educational support, and $689 million to Medicare accelerated and advance payments.

In addition to the $1.25 billion that went directly to the state – which Sununu took sole authority to distribute as he saw fit – the CARES Act included hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for schools, public health efforts, and infrastructure grants. Not to mention the direct assistance to New Hampshire individuals, organizations, and businesses. Sununu used those funds to backfill a number of state costs and programs related to COVID-19.

Then, in December, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan announced that the Congressional Research Service estimated that New Hampshire would receive approximately an additional $2 billion from the December COVID relief package across a variety of sectors, which Shaheen and Hassan helped negotiate. Had it not been for the federal aid, the state of New Hampshire would have needed to pay for those costs directly and would have seen a greater downturn in state revenues.

The federal funding secured by our delegation went a long way to keep our state above water as we continue to weather the storm of COVID-19 – and we still have a long way to go.

While it’s clear that our federal delegation has prioritized securing billions in federal funding for our state and the budget, Gov. Sununu has prioritized cutting funds to programs Granite Staters rely on in favor of a giveaway to out-of-state corporate special interests. Gov. Sununu’s budget cuts funding for Child Protection Services, programs that support small businesses, transportation, and public education, just to name a few. The cuts in the governor’s budget would leave hard-working families behind and force young Granite Staters to struggle just to catch up.

Take the governor’s elimination of funding for the Small Business Development Center, for example. Though this program has resulted in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the state, Sununu’s budget zeroes out funding for the program that requires a modest cash match from the state to receive federal funding. Without this cash match, the SBDC will lose up to $1.5 million in federal funds for the biennium and will likely shut down over the coming year. This would be devastating to our state and to our economy and is just another example of how Gov. Sununu’s budget cuts programs that are critical to our state.

If Gov. Sununu’s budget goes through, New Hampshire’s schools, businesses, and property-tax payers would face unnecessary additional difficulties in trying to get through the pandemic.

We must continue to be vigilant as we go through the budget process and ensure that we do not accept a regressive budget that cuts funding for programs and services Granite Staters rely on.

(Donna Soucy of Manchester represents District 18 in the New Hampshire Senate. Rep. Mary Jane Wallner of Concord represents Merrimack District 10 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)


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