NH Week in Review for June 25: Republican two-year budget takes effect July 1

Jun 25, 2017

There are no claims of bipartisanship in the state budget adopted Thursday by a Republican House and Republican Senate and endorsed by a Republican governor.

Gov. Chris Sununu in fact lauded Republican efforts to craft a two-year $11.7 billion spending plan that he described as “a fiscally responsible budget that lives within our means, promotes job creation through tax cuts, reforms the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), and funds our broken mental health system.”

“New Hampshire is on a pathway to prosperity, and Republicans are leading the way. Granite Staters sent us to Concord to take action and to address New Hampshire’s most critical public policy and program priorities. I am proud to say that we have delivered results for the people of New Hampshire,” Sununu said after Thursday’s vote.

Democrats, however, were feeling left out in the cold. “Even though we approached our Republican colleagues many times in the spirit of compromise and offered countless amendments to make the budget reflective of the needs of real people in our communities, our efforts were rejected at every turn,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield.

“The Republican budget agreement caves to the wealthy elite and short-changes those who are most in need.”

The budget goes into effect on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2019.

The process to create the budget started in February with the governor’s offering of a $12.1 billion plan that included money for full-day kindergarten, money to address mental health program needs and problems at DCYF, and business tax cuts.

The first iteration in the budget process came from the House Finance Committee, which made a recommendation of an $11.9 billion plan that the full House then failed in April to act on because of opposition from Democrats that too much was cut and opposition from conservative Republicans that not enough was cut.

That left the heavy lifting of the budget creation to the Senate, which ultimately decided on an $11.8 billion plan in May. A conference committee of House and Senate members -- with Republicans in the majority -- reached consensus on $11.7 billion and that it was what accepted by the full House and full Senate on Thursday.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, there had been concern that conservative Republicans would continue to oppose the proposed budget as not being lean enough. But the House GOP caucus held together enough for passage of the measure 212-161. Fourteen Republicans out of 221 in the chamber voted against the budget. Five Democrats backed it. It passed 14-9 in the Senate, with all Democrats opposed.

See a Concord Monitor story here

Noticeably absent from the budget plan was the governor’s full-day kindergarten funding.

That has been taken up separately in SB 191, which sought to establish a funding mechanism for school districts that want to offer full-day kindergarten. Originally, the measure reimbursed school districts $1,800 per pupil (the state standard for students) using money from the state’s Education Trust Fund. But that was since amended to $1,100 per kindergartner with money coming from revenue generated by Keno, a form of gambling that would have to be made legal in the Granite State.

Sununu hailed the kindergarten vote, priding himself on being "the first governor to deliver a real full-day kindergarten program for communities across our state, which will close the opportunity gap and provide students, regardless of their economic status, an extra step up as they enter the first grade. Full-day kindergarten is good for children and families, and a critical tool in retaining our future workforce.”

Again, Democrats were left wanting. “It’s disappointing that in the final hour, Governor Sununu and Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by removing full-day kindergarten from the budget, abandoning full funding, and choosing to push a half-measure tied to Keno,” said . Make no mistake, SB 191 does not fully fund full-day kindergarten. But, Democrats will continue to lead the fight for full funding for full-day kindergarten with no strings attached,” said Woodburn.

See a Union Leader story here.

With that, the Legislature goes into recess for the summer.

Health care bill reaction

Contents of the proposed healthcare legislation in the U.S. Senate were made public this week. The Republican-crafted measure isn’t getting any support from the state’s two Democratic senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.

They were in the state on Friday with healthcare advocates arguing how the proposed measure to replace Obamacare will ultimately hurt Granite Staters with higher rates and reduced coverage.

They held a hearing in Concord and heard from residents concerned about their coverage under the Republican plan, which Hassan has described as “heartless.” See a WMUR story here.

Republican leadership in the state, including Gov. Sununu, Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, offered a measured endorsement in a letter to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader.

Their letter offers a variety of suggestions and encourages a careful replacement of Obamacare simultaneous with its repeal. Read the letter here. See an NHPR story here.

Local reaction to the Senate measure comes as Minuteman Health announced it is pulling out of the New Hampshire health insurance marketplace. See a Union Leader story here.

Also

The Executive Council this week approved two of Gov. Sununu’s nominations: Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi, known by family and colleagues as Bobbie Hantz, to replace retiring Associate Justice Carol Ann Conboy on the state Supreme Court, and businessman Peter Kujawski as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services.

Gov. Sununu is expected to sign a fetal homicide bill that generated some controversy because of a loophole (since closed) that technically allowed a pregnant women to commit murder with impunity. See an NHPR story here.

The state chapter of the ACLU is joining a federal lawsuit that a Farmington firefighter has filed against the town claiming his free speech rights were violated. The firefighter was fired because he violated the town’s social media policy that prohibits employees from posting anything that would harm the reputation of town government. The ACLU said the policies violate free speech, hurt government accountability, and stop potentially important speech by public employees. See an NH1 story here.

A report by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies said this week that school funding disparities continue -- and are growing wider -- two decades after the so-called Claremont decision involving state education funding. The state was ordered in that case to provide an equal education for all students, but the study shows gaps still exist between property tax rich communities and property tax poor communities. Read the report here. See a Union Leader story here.

On Facebook this week, we’ve been discussing smartphone use by children and whether local high schools should get rid of the valedictorian and salutatorian distinctions at graduation. We invite you to weigh in.
 

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