House Budget Clears Committee, Heads To Floor

Mar 24, 2015

Republican Richard Barry of Merrimack addresses the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

The New Hampshire House Finance Committee has wrapped up its work on the state budget proposal, which now heads to the House floor next week. 

The roughly $11 billion budget cleared the committee Tuesday with all Republican backing – undoing many spending increases from the Governor.  

They spent $88 million less for the Department of Transportation, $46 million for education aid and $140 million less for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under DHHS reductions the state’s Medicaid expansion would expire by the end of the year, funding for emergency shelters would be cut in half and the Governor’s $6 million increase to drug and alcohol prevention programs would be completely eliminated.

Katharine Rogers, a Democrat from Concord, says these cuts are directed at New Hampshire’s most vulnerable populations.

“Ten percent of those people – 224 individuals were veterans, people who went to war to save us to defend our country. Thirty-three percent of those 10,000 people are people with families and children – little kids are going to be homeless,” Rogers told her colleagues. 

But Republican Richard Barry of Merrimack says these decisions weren’t easy but they were necessary.  

“We tried to cut the areas that were going to impact people the least, we didn’t do it lightly, let me tell you that, it hurt, it hurt us all,” Barry told the committee. 

Democrat House leader Stephen Shurtleff lead a press conference Tuesday morning at the State House addressing the "egregious cuts" backed by the Republicans in the proposed budget.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Democrat Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua says it is appalling that Republicans’ took all tax increases off the table.

“Isn’t an increase in the cigarette tax worth it to combat substance abuse in the middle of an epidemic and to fund emergency shelters in the middle of an epidemic,” Rosenwald said at a press conference Tuesday morning. 

But Finance Chairman Neal Kirk, who says he is proud of the budget, says the Governor’s proposed revenue increases were not the best way to balance the budget.

“When we were trying to look at her budget, we didn’t have the same amount of revenue to spend, and we weren’t going to penalize businesses with higher taxes to harm the economy the way the governor did,” the Republican said. 

Kurk says he hopes Republicans will join him in supporting an increase to the gas tax of around 7 to 9 cents to offset spending reductions to the Department of Transportation, which is scheduled to be introduced to the floor sometime Wednesday.

Governor Maggie Hassan issued a statement Tuesday calling these reductions "irresponsible and unnecessary" saying it will only hurt the state's economy and further downshift costs to local towns and cities.  

The full House is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget next week.