NH Week in Review for May 28: Senate considers $11.8 billion budget

May 28, 2017

With a deadline of June 30 closing in, the New Hampshire Senate’s budget writers this week finished their work on a $11.8 billion two-year plan that will go to the full Senate for consideration.

The Senate Finance Committee, with the four Republicans voting yes and the two Democrats voting no, approved a budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 that is less than the $12.1 billion proposed by Gov. Christopher Sununu in February.

Once the Senate approves the measure, it will go to the House, which failed in its first attempt to come to agreement on what its version of the biennium budget should be.

Democratic leadership in the Senate criticized the budget for failing to “address the challenges of everyday Granite Staters.”

“Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have chosen to pass a partisan budget that rewards the wealthiest among us at the expense of working families and our state’s most vulnerable,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield.

The Senate plan differs from the governor’s proposal and what had been proposed by the House Finance Committee. It leaves out money for full-day kindergarten, which Sununu had put in his budget proposal. It includes money for mental health beds, which Sununu did not have but supports. And it doesn’t include $50 million in property tax relief sought by Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson. It also continues cuts to the business profits and enterprise tax rates, which took effect last year.

See a Concord Monitor story here.

The idea of full-day kindergarten, while supported in concept by Republicans and Democrats, hasn’t been supported with funding. The latest idea broached this week involved using revenue from Keno to finance it.

Members of the House Finance Committee proposed linking kindergarten funding to Keno, which is a game of chance based on the drawing of numbers that must correspond with selected numbers on cards purchased by the player. HB 560 was offered earlier in this legislative session to allow Keno games in New Hampshire with local municipal approval. The measure targeted 8 percent of proceeds for the venue licensed to host the game. The remainder would go to school funding and gambling addiction prevention and treatment.
That bill already passed the House. It is being considered by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Specifically targeting Keno revenue to full-day kindergarten does two things: it funds a program that supporters argue improves educational outcomes for children, and it gives Keno supporters leverage for its passage. The state Senate historically has opposed Keno. Gov. Sununu has been noncommittal on the issue.

See a Union Leader story here.

Another budget that prompted lots of headlines was the federal budget outline from President Donald Trump.

Of particular concern to New Hampshire's all-Democrat delegation to Washington, D.C., are cuts affecting a variety of programs vital to the state, including those dealing with the battle against the opioid epidemic, special education, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and workforce development.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan held a joint news conference Friday to in Concord to, as their offices said, “speak out against the devastating impact that President Trump’s budget would have on critical programs in New Hampshire." See a WMUR story here.


The Senate Finance Committee endorsed one of the key reform measures aimed at child protective services with a proposal to create a category between “founded” and “unfounded” when it comes to child abuse reports to the Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). See a Union Leader story here.

The state’s chief medical examiner confirmed six deaths caused by carfentanil, an opioid that is said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. The drug, developed as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large game, showed up in the state earlier this year and officials fear the number of overdose deaths from it are likely to increase. See a Concord Monitor story here.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is considering an amendment that would give the state’s insurance commissioner more flexibility to act in the event of major health insurance changes in the coming months. With a Republican-led Congress attempting to replace Obamacare with some other form of health care, Republicans here want to be prepared. One option under consideration is a high-risk pool previously used to cover uninsured patients with the most serious conditions. See a WMUR story here.

Sen. Shaheen announced that the USS Manchester, a littoral combat ship under final construction in Mobile, Alabama, will be commissioned in Portsmouth next year. Shaheen made the announcement at Granite State Manufacturing, which builds critical systems and components for the Navy’s newest class of warship.The last vessel commissioned in Portsmouth was the USS New Hampshire submarine in 2008. See a Foster’s Daily Democrat story here.

Rather than have them euthanized, Fish and Game has given into the pressure from the public and Gov. Sununu and will capture and relocate a family of bears in the Hanover area. The bears - a mother and her three yearlings - had entered a home and game officials said they would need to be euthanized because of concern that bears had become “habituated.” The governor, buttressed by an online petition, raised his objections to euthanization. Game officials said the bears, once captured, will be relocated farther into the North Country. See a Concord Monitor story here.

Would you be open to a kayak and canoe registration fee to help fund the Fish and Game Department? Should Keno pay for full-day kindergarten? Those are two of the questions under consideration on our Facebook page. You’re invited to offer your opinion.

Enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend, and remember the men and women whose sacrifice allows us this leisure and freedom.


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