NH Week in Review for Feb. 12: Sununu delivers budget to Legislature

Feb 12, 2017

After just four weeks in office, Gov. Christopher Sununu on Thursday delivered his proposed $12.1 billion budget to the state Legislature for the next two fiscal years.

Acknowledging the challenge -- saying, “It’s almost impossible to produce a budget in just four weeks. Boy, have I learned. It is quite a task” -- he offered a spending plan based on what he described as “conservative revenue projections.” He said the budget was created without a sales or income tax, without a hike in fees or taxes, and without layoffs, even after trimming $500 million from what the state agencies had requested in funding.

The Republican governor, in an address to a joint session of a GOP-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate, said he wants to see the effort to continue to reduce business taxes.

Calling it “a true balanced budget,” he said that balance was achieved by “ensuring that spending in fiscal 2018 and 2019 is based entirely on revenue for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and does not anticipate nor rely on revenue carried forward as surpluses from prior fiscal years.”

Those revenue projections estimate 2.5 percent growth in fiscal 2018 and 2 percent growth in fiscal 2019.

The proposed budget is $800 million more than the current $11.3 billion budget that ends on June 30. It proposes increases in spending of 2.2 percent in fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018) and a 1.2 percent increase in fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019).

A complete breakdown of the governor’s budget is offered here at the state Budget Office within the Department of Administrative Services.

NHPR took the transcript of Sununu’s speech and annotated it to provide some context on what was said and what was proposed. Read it here.

Among the highlights of the budget is a commitment by Sununu to fund full-day kindergarten across New Hampshire. According to an NHPR annotation, even if the state doubles its financial support for kindergarten, many cash-strapped districts around the state won’t be able to actually start offering it.

With respect to higher education, Sununu proposed to flat fund the University System of New Hampshire, while giving the Community College System an additional $10 million. That likely means an in-state tuition increase at the universities.

For reactions to the budget, see an NH1 News story here and a Seacoast Online story here.

Also in Concord

The measure to overturn the requirement for a concealed carry permit is on its way to the governor for his likely signature. Previously passed by the Senate, the House passed SB 12 and Sununu, a supporter of concealed carry, will probably sign it sometime in the coming week. With the law, it was up to a city or town police chief to decide whether someone should be issued a permit to carry a concealed pistol or revolver. See a Union Leader story here.

The Senate this week gave its approval of $2 million to the Milk Producers Emergency Relief Fund board to then be distributed to the state’s dairy farmers, hard hit by falling prices and the drought. The measure is SB 10. Over the course of 2016, the number of licensed cow dairy operations in New Hampshire dropped from 123 to 115, according to state data. See a Concord Monitor story here.

The full House next week will take up right-to-work legislation, after a House committee this week recommended against it. SB 11 passed the Senate, but did not get a favorable report out of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee. While it has the support of the governor, the vote in the House is expected to be close. See an NHPR story here.

The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee, in other action, voted 20-1 to hold onto a paid family leave proposal for further study. HB 628 would establish a state-administered paid leave insurance program. With the panel’s vote, a subcommittee will study the bill over the summer, and the full committee will take it up again in November. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Trump raises NH voter fraud again

For a second time, President Donald Trump has raised the allegation, without specifics, of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire, which led to his defeat in the state to Hillary Clinton and the defeat of Republican Kelly Ayotte to another term in the U.S. Senate.

He made the statement in a lunch meeting with senators. Ayotte was present for the meeting at the White House with a bipartisan group of 10 senators because she is working with Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, to shepherd him around Capitol Hill for meetings, according to an Associated Press report.

Trump’s notion that voters were bused in from Massachusetts to vote in New Hampshire likely came from Gov. Chris Sununu, according to the report. Sununu told a Boston radio host that Democrats are “busing them in all over the place” and picking a phony address for people to use for same-day registration. That claim was found to be baseless and Sununu backed off from the statement, while still advocating for a stronger residency requirement when it comes to voting in the state.

"There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of major voter fraud in New Hampshire's elections. President Trump continues to spread a dangerous lie and it's long past time for Republican leadership in New Hampshire to stand up and defend our state's electoral system,” said U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

A Federal Elections Commission (FEC) official has called on Trump to produce some proof of his allegations. “To cast aspersions on that belief that our elections can be relied upon is very, very troubling and undermining to the faith of the American people in our own democracy,” Federal Elections Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in an interview with the Union Leader.

Stay safe over the next couple of days and check out our Facebook discussions. As you’re digging out from successive snow storms, we’ll be digging through the week’s relevant news. See you next week.

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