CONCORD — Despite promises from House and Senate negotiators Tuesday, no proposed education funding constitutional amendment was released Wednesday.
Instead the conference committee will meet Thursday morning and hold a press conference at 9:45 a.m. to announce the accord.
However, House and Senate negotiators on two other proposed constitutional amendments did reach agreement on their proposals prohibiting an income tax and requiring a three-fifth majority to pass new or increased taxes and fees.
Negotiators agreed on CACR 6, which would require a three-fifth majority to approve any new or increased taxes or fees.
The Senate’s chief negotiator, Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Henniker, quoted former Gov. Meldrim Thomson saying low taxes are the result of low spending.
The Senate version of the bill caps spending beyond the rate of inflation, or a three-fifth majority would be needed for approval, while the House version caps taxes unless there is a three-fifth majority.
Sanborn said there is a need for something to protect taxpayers that is clear and not confusing to voters.
The Senate would agree to the House’s position with the understanding if the proposed amendment does not pass, then next year they would introduce a spending limit instead.
After the agreement, Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, which advocates for low and moderate income residents, said CACR 6 would force the state to rely on “gimmicks” to balance the budget and could lead to the gridlock that has occurred in states with similar legislation, such as Nevada and California.
“This makes it that much harder to restore funding for things people rely on everyday, whether its higher education — people sending kids to college — or health care for low and moderate income families, having something like CACR 6 in the constitution would make that hard to address this priorities,” he said.
He said NHFPI has been in touch with other organizations concerning a possible campaign against CACR 6, along with CACR 13, the income tax ban, should they make it to the ballot.
The Senate version of CACR 13 prohibits “an assessment, rate, or tax on income earned by a natural person other than taxes in effect on January 1, 2012, and adjustments to the rate of such taxes.”
The Senate added the term “natural person” to ensure that the ban does not apply to taxes on businesses, which have been considered persons for legal purposes.
At the conference committee meeting, the lead Senate and House negotiators praised the accord on the income tax ban and CACR 6.
“I think this is a very important and momentous step,” said Rep.
Stephen Stepanek, R-Milford, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “Getting this on the ballot will give citizens a chance to let everybody know how they fell about the pledge, shall we say.”
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R- Wolfeboro, pointed to the agreements on CACR 6 and CACR 13 — and what he hoped would be one on CACR 12, the constitutional amendment concerning public education funding.
“Hopefully these will be the lucky three,” he said. “Voters will have a chance to make sure New Hampshire stays the ‘Live Free or Die state.”
Earlier this year, the Senate and Gov. John Lynch reached agreement on CACR 12, but the House rejected similar language and instead House leadership released a new version about a month ago.
The latest House proposal includes the word responsibility but also makes clear only lawmakers would determine education standards, accountability, how much if any money should go to education and how it would be distributed. Lynch and Republican lawmakers have long favored an amendment that would allow the state to send more money to poor communities, while wealthy communities would receive no aid. Under the current system, all communities receive at least $3,450 per student in state aid.
The deadline for conference committee work is 4 p.m. Thursday.