In the last state budget, legislators pilfered $17 million from the state's Renewable Energy Fund. The House wanted to take more than $30 million from various dedicated funds, and Gov. Maggie Hassan wanted blanket authority to raid them at will, but the Senate would not go along. The draining of these supposedly off-budget accounts is a perennial problem. That might change if a Senate bill up for a vote this week becomes law.
Legislators routinely drain dedicated accounts such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) to pay for general fund operations. It is one of the dirty secrets of state budgeting. But there is no easy way to track what accounts are raided and for what purpose.
State law requires the administrator of every state dedicated fund or trust to file an annual report to the state treasurer detailing the account's receipts and expenditures. But it does not require those reports to detail disbursements that were contrary to the account's purposes.
Senate Bill 269 would change that by requiring an accounting of the "amount of funds for each fund, account, or trust which has been expended for or diverted to a purpose other than the original purpose of the fund, account, or trust."
That way, the public can see clearly how much money politicians took from each dedicated fund, and for what purpose. Passing this bill would not end the legislative raids on these funds, but it probably would curtail them a great deal, which would amount to a genuine public service.