All eyes have been on the Senate after the House failed to pass its own version of the budget earlier this year – for the first time in decades. The Senate budget includes much of what House budget writers agreed on, though it spends less and includes business tax cuts.
- Charlie Arlinghaus - Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services and former Budget Director for Gov. Chris Sununu; he's on leave from his longtime position as president of the Josiah Bartlett Center, a free-market think tank in Concord.
- Jeb Bradley - Republican Senator from Wolfeboro, majority leader of the New Hampshire State Senate.
- Lou D'Allesandro - Democratic State Senator from Manchester, in his 10th term in the Senate; on the Senate Finance Committee
- J.R. Hoell - Republican state representative from Dunbarton, a member of the N.H. House Freedom Caucus.
SHOW HIGHLIGHTS/KEY QUESTIONS:
How likely is it that members of the Freedom Caucus will support the senate's budget?
Rep. JR Hoell: They've made some great changes in terms of improvements -- cutting the business taxes is a good example, funding the charter schools is another good example, so there are positive steps forward. Some of us are still concerned that it spends more than we're comfortable with and that's... put us in a stalemate almost. The overall increase in government size is bigger than a number of us are conformable with.
How hopeful are Senate Republicans that their budget will gain bipartisan support?
Sen. Bradley: I think we're getting to a point that both sides, more liberals, more conservatives ought to start to say, you know what this makes sense. Yes, our general fund spending goes up by $108 million from 2017 to 2018 -- 20 million of that’s mental health, 7 million is the community college system, 7 million the alcohol fund, 59 million the disability wait list, 2 million for more staff at DCYF, and 10 million for more scholarships. I think most people support each and every one of those. That’s why this is a good and responsible budget and everybody should vote for it.
How does the Governor view the senate's version of the budget?
Charlie Arlinghaus: The Governor supports it.. I think it's a very strong budget... I don’t think any fiscal conservative would argue that holding spending increases below the rate of inflation in times of significant benefit increases because of healthcare costs and significant payroll increases because of a negotiated raise is anything like a failure. I think it would be a strong success. I think it’s the… third or fourth most conservative budget, from a total bottom line, in modern history.
Does this budget adequately address the opioid crisis?
Sen. Jeb Bradley: Governor Sununu called for doubling the amount of money that goes from alcohol revenues into the alcohol fund, which is supposed to be used for prevention and treatment of alcohol drug addiction, so last year we appropriated $7 million to that fund. This year it would be $ 14 million.
We've funded Granite Hammer… This budget adds more state troopers and doubles the alcohol fund and the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services has seen a $ 23 million increase over the previous biennium. Whether it’s treatment, recovery, prevention or law enforcement, I think we’ve dedicated a lot of new resources to that, as well we should. And we’ve done that in a bipartisan way. I'm sure there are ways we could probably spend more money but at the same time, we’ve got to see what works, and we’ve got to be careful to make sure money is effectively targeted.
Rep. J.R. Hoell: I'm not sure sending more money and hiring more police officers is going to solve the opioid problem. Last year, we had the Granite Hammer program, we spent $5 million dollars on that. I'm not necessarily certain we had the positive outcome that we wanted out of that program. We are about to do more of that, and my concern is we continue to throw money at this war on drugs, and we're not solving it. People who are addicted do need help, but I'm not sure the continued funding of programs to try and limit the supply of drugs in the system is going to solve it. We need to start addressing the demand side.
Are more business tax cuts necessary?
Sen. Lou D'Allesandro: Businesses don't need more tax cuts. They need good employees and cheaper electricity to keep them here. We've reduced taxes. We have achieved what we wanted... We've reduced taxes 33 times in the last ten years. How many more times can you reduce taxes? Businesses need employees; we can't find people to work.
Sen. Bradley: The business tax cuts are working. New Hampshire gets ranked on a whole series of things, livability, best place to educate a child, whatever. The business tax rankings, with all the work we did last year, we went from 48th worst to 46th worst. So there’s still room for significant improvement here.