Governor Hassan Signs Capital Budget into Law

Bipartisan Measure Invests in Numerous Job-Creating Projects,
Funds New Women’s Prison

Maggie HassanCONCORD – To create jobs and invest in projects that will strengthen New Hampshire’s economy and communities, Governor Maggie Hassan signed into law today the state’s capital budget (HB 25) for fiscal years 2014-2015.

The bipartisan capital budget passed by the legislature closely matches the plan proposed by Governor Hassan in February with investments in projects that are critical for encouraging innovation and creating jobs. This includes funds for the state’s Business One-Stop that is putting more services online for New Hampshire businesses; for career and technology education (CTE) centers in Salem and Whitefield; for the state’s Enterprise Licensing System that will put all professional licenses on one common, online platform; for continuation of the E-Court Initiative; for repairing the Hampton sea wall; and for Community College and University system projects.

“Our bipartisan capital budget plan will help the state move forward with job-creating projects that are critical for keeping our communities strong and building a more innovative economic future,” Governor Hassan said.

To improve public safety and strengthen New Hampshire’s corrections system, the capital budget also includes $38 million for the state to build a new women’s prison with modern facilities that can provide the same level of safety measures and programs offered at the men’s prison.

“For too long, our corrections system has woefully neglected women,” Governor Hassan said. “Through the capital budget, we are now able to build a long-overdue new women’s prison with facilities and programs that can help individuals safely move back into society when they have served their sentences.”

In total, the capital budget authorizes nearly $245 million in capital appropriations for FY 14/15, leveraging approximately $125 million in general fund bonding authority, with the balance from other sources. The full details of the capital budget can be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2013/HB0025.html.

Bipartisan State Budget Agreement Reached

Governor Maggie Hassan today applauded the bipartisan budget agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators.

Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen released the following comments on the House and Senate negotiators reaching an agreement on a bipartisan balanced state budget:
“Senate Democrats have worked to protect many of the good initiatives of this budget — restoring education funding, Children in Need of Services, and mental health services, and creating a clear path toward accepting $2.5 billion in federal funds to extend Medicaid coverage to 58,000 people in our state.
There are also some things that Senate Democrats could not reverse that we will continue to work on next session. At the end of the day, this is a compromise, and the very fact that we can reach one is a good thing. It shows that together with the leadership of Governor Hassan, in New Hampshire we can still work together, find common ground, and make progress on important issues.

“This bipartisan, fiscally responsible balanced budget agreement represents true and meaningful progress on the priorities that matter to the people of New Hampshire and that are critical for creating good jobs and building a more innovative economic future,” Governor Hassan said.

“By restoring investments in priorities such as higher education, mental health, economic development, public safety and more, this bipartisan agreement will keep our state moving forward by encouraging innovation and maintaining the health and well-being of our families and communities.”

The budget significantly restores funding for the University and Community College systems to allow them to freeze tuition, returns a scholarship fund for New Hampshire students, and invests in other economic development activities such as tourism and trade promotion and technical assistance for businesses. It will allow the state to move forward with implementing its 10-year mental health plan, funds the waitlist for people with developmental disabilities, restores the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program, improves public safety by adding additional state troopers, and increases aid to cities and towns.

The bipartisan budget also establishes a study commission that will report back on Medicaid expansion by October 15th.

“While I believe we could move forward now with accepting the $2.5 billion in federal funds for Medicaid expansion, I respect the Senate’s desire to study a New Hampshire-specific model and appreciate its willingness to do so in a timely way,” Governor Hassan said. “I am confident that once members of the Legislature see the results of the study, they will want to move forward as quickly as possible through a special session. Because, as both Democratic and Republican Governors across the country have found, Medicaid expansion is absolutely critical to the health and financial well-being of our citizens, and every day that New Hampshire delays after January 1st will cost us $1 million a day in federal funds.”

Governor Hassan also praised the work of lawmakers on the budget.

“Like all budgets, this agreement required difficult choices and compromises. But the bipartisan balanced budget agreement clearly demonstrates that the New Hampshire traditions of hard-work, collaboration, and commonsense problem-solving have returned to Concord. Both the House and Senate repeatedly showed a willingness to rise above ideology and listen to the people they represent in order to reach constructive compromises.

“I want to thank President Bragdon, Speaker Norelli, Senator Morse, Representative Wallner, and all of the budget negotiators from both chambers, as well as the staff of the Legislature, state agencies, and my office, for their tireless work that led to this bipartisan agreement.

“With this fiscally responsible balanced budget, the people of the Granite State can feel confident that their voices have been heard loud and clear. I encourage all members of both the House and Senate to send this budget to my desk for my signature so we can lay the foundation for a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire.”

Sequestration to cost State of New Hampshire
more than $6 million in federal funding

The White House has released fact sheets showing state-by-state impacts of the automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration”, which are scheduled to go into effect on Friday. This year alone, state and municipal governments in New Hampshire will lose:

  • almost $3.3 million in federal funding for k-12 education
  • almost $1.8 million in federal grants for environmental protection, including fish and wildlife grants
  • more than $1 million in other funding for health programs, job training, justice programs and meals for seniors.

About 1,000 civilian Department of Defense employees will be furloughed, reducing their pay (and the amount they can spend in local businesses) by about $5.4 million. And other federal employees based in New Hampshire will also be furloughed.

Read the New Hampshire fact sheet here.

Domestic Discretionary Spending

During the past few Congress-created crises, federal spending has already been cut by over $1.4 trillion – bring domestic discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower era.

GOP House leadership refuses to do anything except cut spending even more. Read “The Republicans Make an Offer on Sequestration” here.

The Democrats’ plan is to defer the sequester with a mix of tax revenues and more-targeted spending cuts. Read more in the Washington Post here. In that mix: $54 billion would be raised by ensuring that that most millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. But that proposal was immediately dismissed by GOP Senate leadership – and we all know the GOP’s record at filibustering legislation they don’t like.

At this point, most observers expect sequestration to go into effect as scheduled. Remember who created this crisis, when you see the trickle-down effect on state programs and local school districts.

Next crisis date to watch? March 27th, when the current budget resolution expires and the federal government faces shutdown.

Voter ID Impact on NH Taxpayers

When New Hampshire voters went to the polls this year they were asked to show an ID due to the new Voter photo ID bill. On September 1, 2013, that law changes and becomes more restrictive by limiting the list of ID’s that will be accepted in order to cast your vote. The law removes the ability to use most forms of photo ID including those issued by a state, county or municipal government, a valid student ID, an ID determined to be legitimate by local election officials, and simple identity verification by local town officials. Voters without acceptable ID’s will not only have to sign an affidavit but will be required to have a poll worker take their photo before being allowed to vote. The poll workers will then have to print a color copy of the photo in real time and affix it to the voter’s signed affidavit. Not only will the number of individuals who get caught up in the process increase but so will state expenditures to implement the changes.  How much more will this cost the state? Roughly a quarter million dollars was requested by the Secretary of State’s office for FY14 & FY15.

America was founded on the principle that we’re all created equal.  Inside the voting booth, all Americans have an equal and unencumbered voice in our democracy. But instead, some want you to believe it’s a privilege to vote and not a right and those people are willing to make it harder for some to cast their ballot. That’s the real reason why they want to limit the number of ID’s that are acceptable. They will try to convince you that voter impersonation is rampant in New Hampshire, but we know from thorough investigations that this just is not the case. There have only been three cases of voter fraud according to fraud reports issued by the SOS and AG’s office since 2006. The most recent case at the polls in NH was that of James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who was attempting to make a point that voter impersonation is possible, but fell short of proving anything about actual voter impersonation; instead all he proved was his unfamiliarity with New Hampshire voting law, landing himself in hot water. We all agree that protecting the integrity of our elections is vitally important—that’s why we already have strict laws and protections in place.

Proponents of Voter photo ID will also try to convince you that Voter ID laws are no big deal – that you need an ID to get on an airplane or buy a beer. The problem is that neither of those actions is enshrined in our Constitution – voting is. And contrary to their belief, not everyone does have an ID. Just this past election 5,424 people in New Hampshire didn’t have an ID to vote. That’s 5,424 people who might not  cast a vote next election year because they lack ID – no matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like and who they vote for, that’s 5,424 too many.

If those reasons alone don’t give you pause to think twice about the real implications of voter photo ID, then I hope the financial implications will. It is just too expensive to implement when there have only been three cases of voter fraud as reported by the Secretary of State’s office and the Attorney General in the last 8 years. More people get struck by lightning than impersonate another voter at the polls. Is a quarter of a million worth those odds? I think not.

Jess Clark
Political and Field Director
America Votes

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Only Two Months until the NEXT Congress-Created Crisis

Congress creates another crisisLate last night, one-third of House GOP members voted with the Democrats to pass legislation avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff”.  Congressman Bass voted in favor of the bill; Congressman Guinta voted against it.

Even though the Senate had passed the bill almost unanimously, until dinnertime, it looked like the bill would fail in the House.  What happened at dinnertime?  The House took up a brand-new bill bashing federal employees and attempting to rescind their 0.5% cost-of-living increase, which is scheduled to go into effect at the end of March.  [Federal employees have already supplied $108 billion in “budget savings” through a two-year pay freeze and increased retirement contributions.]

Sure, there were only a few hours left for Congressional action.  Sure, there was no chance whatsoever that a brand-new bill would become law.  The House still took 90 minutes to debate it and hold a roll call vote. [Both Guinta and Bass voted for the bill.  Please remember that, if either of them run again for Congress in 2014.]

And after that last symbolic attack on federal employees, GOP House leadership was finally able to get around to the business of avoiding the Fiscal Cliff.  Gotta wonder about their priorities.

When it finally passed at 11:00 last night, the Fiscal Cliff bill was a true compromise.  It included concessions that angered people on both sides.   (Read the bill here.)

But it also set up yet another Congress-created crisis, scheduled to hit in only two months.

  • The bill did not address the federal debt limit – and two months from now, the Treasury will have exhausted the debt limit “headroom” created by taking “extraordinary measures” with government and postal employee pension funds.
  • The bill did not resolve “sequestration” spending cuts – but rather postponed them for two months.

So, the nation is rolling straight from one Congress-created crisis into another Congress-created crisis.

Gotta wonder why Congress keeps creating crises.  (Journalist Naomi Klein has an interesting theory about how crises – real or perceived – are used to further corporate goals.  Read more here.)

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One of many things the Fiscal Cliff bill didn’t address was restoring the state share of federal estate taxes.

In a “sponge tax” system dating back to 1924, estate tax revenues were historically shared between the states and the federal government.  Back in 2001, Congress federalized the states’ portion of these revenues to help pay for the “temporary” Bush tax cuts.

Restoring the “sponge tax” system could mean more than $3 billion in annual revenues for state governments.  New Hampshire could receive an estimated $27 million in annual revenues.  Read more here.

frigateThe estate tax has a long and patriotic history.  It was created to raise funds for the country’s first Navy, and was used to fund almost every war before Iraq.  Read more here.

But for the past few decades, “members of a handful of super-wealthy families have quietly helped finance and coordinate a massive campaign to repeal the estate tax.  …The families also have helped finance outside groups that have spent millions on fear-mongering ad campaigns intended to sway public opinion against the estate tax.”  Read more here.

Who knows?  Maybe restoring these state revenues will be a part of whatever bill resolves this next Congress-created crisis.