NHGOP legislators take credit for balanced budget, no fee hikes
A GOP “budget roundtable” organized by the New Hampshire Republican State Committee at Manchester City Hall was aimed at “talking about the positive aspects of the budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, “how we protected taxpayers, didn’t raise a single fee or tax and how we lived within our means and did so while meeting the needs of the state and a way that should allow for economic growth.
The $10.7 billion fiscal 2014-2015 budget passed the 24-member Senate unanimously and the 400-member House with only 18 dissenters. Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, and Democrats hold the majority in the House. Gov. Maggie Hassan is a Democrat.
Democrats, however, issued a reminder after the meeting that the same Republican leaders had voted for a smaller, $10.3 billion fiscal 2012-2013 budget, which, they said, made cuts public higher education, “killed hundreds of New Hampshire jobs and devastated health services.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said, “Mental health funding was a priority from the beginning,” and the current budget increases funding in that area by about $30 million over the previous budget.
State Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, a member of the House Finance Committee, said the budget initially sent to the House by Hassan included a 15-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax hike and a 30-cent-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax. It also included $80 million in anticipated revenue from a licensing fee for a casino.He said although House Republicans wanted no increased taxes or fees, “that was not the prevailing attitude” in the Democratic-controlled House. The Senate eventually killed those proposed tax hikes.
At the same time, he said, the Senate passed a casino gambling bill only to have it killed in the House.
“So, we were stuck with no new revenue,” Weyler said.
Morse said the Senate received an $11 billion budget from the House, but cut it to $10.7 billion because “that’s what the revenues were in the state.”
“That’s the best advertising the state can do,” he said. “It says we’re a business-friendly state.”
Morse also said there are four business-tax reductions in the current budget, totalling $13.5 million.
A key compromise reached in the budget was the formation of the current committee studying the possibility of Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire.
Bradley said after the meeting that it is too early to predict if there will eventually be a compromise.
Morse said that while the budget, in his opinion, meets many of the needs of the state, there are other areas that require more revenue, especially highways.
He said the states needs to bond $250 million for the Interstate 93 project “and for that we know we will need $20 million a year.”
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