GOP infighting over spending levels may threaten state budget

  • President of the Senate Chuck Morse presides over a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 5/30/2017 8:00:08 PM

Republican Senate budget writers faced opposition from members of their own party Tuesday, who pledged to kill the $11.8 billion proposal because it spends too much.

“I’m opposed to this budget as it currently stands, and I am going to work to defeat it,” said Republican Rep. James McConnell, a member of the House Freedom Caucus that helped sink the chamber’s budget plan earlier this year.

Senate leaders are confident they will approve the spending blueprint this week, but the biggest hurdle remains the Republican-led House, where ongoing party infighting threatens passage of the next state budget.

At an information session Tuesday, Senate President Chuck Morse fielded questions and criticism from House Republicans on the plan drafted over the past several weeks by the Senate Finance Committee. Morse urged support for the plan because it cuts business taxes and spends $15 million less than the House proposal.

“The Senate funded the needs, in its opinion, and it funded the governor’s direction of where he wanted to take the state of New Hampshire,” said Morse, a Salem Republican.

Though Republicans control the House, Senate and corner office for the first time in more than a decade, they haven’t found solid agreement on the state’s next two-year budget.

In April, the House failed to pass a spending plan for the first time in decades after a group of conservatives banded with Democrats to defeat the budget put forward by Republican leaders.

A similar scenario may be in the making for the Senate committee’s plan. The same House conservatives criticized the Senate’s spending plan Tuesday, reiterating their stance that it spends too much and doesn’t cut funding for the university system.

Since Republicans hold a slim majority in the House, roughly two dozen defections could sink the budget plan if Democrats also oppose it.

So far, Democrats have broadly panned the spending plan, saying it offers too little for social services, education and workforce training. House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff said his chief concern is another set of proposed cuts to business taxes, which are some of the state’s biggest moneymakers.

“I don’t think Democrats would be willing to vote for that,” he said.

Still, House Finance Committee Chairman Neal Kurk suggested Democrats may back the bill in the face of worse options. Should lawmakers be unable to agree on a plan by June 30, when the current budget expires, lawmakers may have to turn to a continuing resolution, which typically funds government at current levels until a deal is struck.

If the Senate passes a spending plan as expected this week, the House has several options. It can accept the plan with no changes, kill it outright or request a meeting with the Senate, known as a committee of conference, to work out their differences. Kurk predicted the latter option.

“I believe at the end of the day, enough Democrats will see it in their best policy interests to join with the vast majority of Republicans and pass the committee of conference recommended budget,” he said. “I think that’s what will happen.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or

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