Senate Finance Plan Would Hurt NH Businesses and Middle Class Families, Relies on Gimmicks That Will Leave Budget Unbalanced
Hassan: “Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy.”
CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan said today that she has serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee budget is unbalanced, contains misleading budget gimmicks and includes budget-busting tax cuts for big businesses that will hurt New Hampshire’s middle-class families, small businesses and economy.
“There are still several steps remaining in the budget process before a final bill makes its way to my desk, and I remain willing to roll up my sleeves and work toward a compromise, bipartisan budget that moves New Hampshire forward,” Governor Hassan said. “But I have serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee’s partisan plan will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward while relying on gimmicks that will ultimately leave the budget unbalanced.”
“Senate Republican leadership says that New Hampshire can’t afford to lower tuition at the community colleges, provide a modest cost-of-living increase to employees, fix our roads, fund mental health or even adequately staff our correctional institutions or our juvenile justice system. They even say that in the midst of a heroin epidemic, New Hampshire can’t afford to adequately fund substance misuse prevention and treatment.
“But instead of funding those priorities, Senate Republican leadership included large tax cuts that will create a hole in this budget and budgets well into the future,” Governor Hassan continued.
“All session long, Senate Democrats have urged our Republican colleagues to put partisan politics aside and have a serious budget conversation about how we can work together under the Governor’s leadership to expand middle class opportunity, support small businesses, and keep our state’s economy moving in the right direction,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn. “Unfortunately, the budget approved by the Senate Republicans prioritizes special interests and tax giveaways for big, out-of-state businesses over the people of New Hampshire.”
“Instead of joining with us to invest in our shared priorities as we did in the last bipartisan budget, the Senate Republican budget undermines our economic future, sets the state on precarious financial footing, and is neither compassionate nor responsible. It uses fiscally irresponsible budget gimmicks that have been decried by members of both parties—which means that the Senate Republicans are once again promising more services than their budget can actually deliver,” Woodburn continued.
Governor Hassan also said she had serious concerns that the Senate Finance Committee did not reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, leaving the 40,158 New Hampshire citizens who had enrolled in the bipartisan program through May 26 in jeopardy of losing their health insurance in the second year of this budget. The program will receive a 95 percent federal match in 2017, but the legislature also did not include the money necessary to continue it.
“It is wrong to leave 40,000 people on the edge of losing their health insurance. The uncertainty is also bad for our health insurance market and our economy, and it could lead to rising rates for all consumers or insurers deciding not to offer coverage in New Hampshire in 2017 – something that will hurt all of our citizens,” Governor Hassan said.
“The Senate Republican budget includes cuts to mental health, substance abuse treatment, public safety and higher education—all of which undermines our efforts to build a stronger economic future,” Sen. Woodburn continued. “Their budget also ends the state’s business-backed, bipartisan Medicaid expansion program, which means that 40,000 people will lose coverage and businesses will be forced to pay the ‘hidden tax’ that results from cost-shifting of uncompensated care. And instead of fixing these devastating cuts, Senate Republicans decided to give tax cuts to large, out-of-state corporations.”
Governor Hassan also raised concerns about the Senate Finance Committee’s use of budget gimmicks and back-of-the budget cuts, misleading people about what is actually funded.
“The Senate Finance Committee claims to have ‘restored’ $6.5 million in mental health funding, but then they turned around and told the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.5 million from mental health services,” Governor Hassan said. “The committee’s continued reliance on irresponsible budget gimmicks will put our state on perilous financial footing and undermine the legislature’s constitutional duty to balance the budget.”
Some of the budget gimmicks and the back of the budget cuts in the Senate Finance Budget include:
- Assuming $34 million from Fiscal Year 2015 will be left over to carry forward into Fiscal Year 2016. In making that calculation, the Senate Finance Committee is double counting $15 million in lapses; not counting $3 million in additional appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015 authorized by the Fiscal Committee or by state law; and counting the $7 million in savings from Health and Human Services 2015 back-of-the-budget cut even as they directed Health and Human Services to spend that $7 million.
- Not accounting for the impact their business tax cuts will have on estimated payments and business tax revenues in Fiscal Year 2016.
- Saying they are restoring $6.25 million in mental health funding, while at the same time directing the Department of Health and Human Services to cut $6.25 million in mental health funding.
- Assuming $3.5 million reduction at the Sununu Youth Services Center in 2015 with no plan for how to achieve the savings.
- Assuming unrealistic savings estimates in Health and Human Services, include a caseload drop of 2 percent; and $12.5 million in “savings” from additional managed care programs.
- Increasing lapse estimates by $9 million.
- Diverting funds from last year’s bipartisan transportation funding plan from road work to operations and assuming the Department of Transportation can balance its budget through a federal financing vehicle that has not yet been approved by the federal Department of Transportation.
- Failing to fully fund winter maintenance for the Department of Transportation.
- Directing the Department of Transportation to pay for the widening of Route 106 with operational funds, without identifying where they should cut to make those payments.
“Any budget that relies exclusively on the votes of one political party will fail to meet the expectations of our citizens and the needs of our economy. I urge the legislature to work across party lines to pass a bipartisan budget that is honest about what it chooses to fund and invests in the priorities that are critical to the success of our people, our businesses and our economy,” Governor Hassan said.
“This budget proposal is unacceptable and Senate Democrats will continue to fight for an honest and balanced budget that expands opportunity for all, supports businesses throughout our state, and lays the foundation for a new generation of economic growth. Senate Republicans must put aside their partisan ambitions and work across party lines with Senate Democrats and the Governor to finalize a budget that’s truly responsible for New Hampshire’s people, businesses, and economy,” Woodburn concluded.