Republicans May Finally Muster Majority to Pass N.H. Budget

Jun 21, 2017

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Governor Sununu says this year’s budget process has kept him busy meeting with Republicans, talking to lawmakers one-on-one, and trying to stick with the sales approach he’s learned works best.

“You never get anything by raising your voice and threatening. No, open positive listening. And when you bringing people in and talking to them and you are opening, and listening, it’s amazing what you can get done.”

In some ways, it’s remarkable the hard sell is needed. This budget meets every traditional Republican standard: It doesn’t include new or increased taxes or fees. It also adds to the state’s rainy day fund.

But for some conservatives in the house, like Jim McConnell of Swanzey, it spends too much and falls well short.

“Frankly, when we are running the government, and when I say we I mean the Republican party, it seems to me that we should be able to do better than that.”

It’s hard to know how many Republicans share McConnell’s view to the point they’ll vote against the budget, but there are signs their numbers are shrinking. The majority of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that led the fight against the failed budget backed by Republican leaders in April, voted in favor of supporting this plan.

'There are more of those (holdouts) than there used to be. Always had some, but it didn’t used to make much difference, sometimes. Now it makes a difference.'

The House Republican Alliance is also divided but some members say this budget has earned their support.

One thing isn’t in doubt is that Democrats will oppose it. Susan Almy of Lebanon is the ranking Democrat on the house ways and means committee.

“The tax cuts are an existential threat to the operations of our state's services to businesses as well as the public.”

She was speaking at a news conference where Democrats promised to oppose the budget.

Senate finance chairman Gary Daniels listened on from the back of the room. He said he expected house Republicans to have a different view of the budget’s tax cuts.

“All I’m trying to do is to educate them on what is actually in the budget. The parts that will move us forward as a state, and looking at the business tax relief as a long term strategy.”

But right now it’s executing a short term strategy that’s crucial, and that’s involved folks outside the state house.

State GOP chair Jeannie Forrester has gotten involved to remind holdout Republicans this budget is in accord with the party platform.

Deputy House Speaker Gene Chandler has served in Concord for more than 30 years. He says holdouts aren’t new, but, “There are more of those than there used to be. Always had some, but it didn’t used to make much difference, sometimes. Now it makes a difference.”

So too, perhaps, has the sales job. Jim McConnell says his mind is not likely to change, but other peoples have.

“Before they put on the big push, I had the votes to kill this, no buts about it, and that I don’t think it’s any longer the case. It is at this moment certainly, at best, from my standpoint a very close call.”