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Sept. 21 - Compromise Leads to New State Budget

This article appeared in the E-Ticker News Sept. 21, 2015

NH House Happenings

By Rep. John Cloutier

Compromise Leads To New State Budget

Our state finally has an operating budget, thanks to a compromise approved by both New Hampshireʼs House of Representatives and Senate as well as Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The compromise was reached after nearly three months of budget negotiations between Gov. Hassan, a Democrat, as well as House Speaker Shawn Jasper and Senate President Chuck Morse, both Republicans. Negotiations begun after the Governor had vetoed the operating budget (House Bill 1) and its trailer bill (House Bill 2) on June 25. A compromise that was reached on Sept. 15, one day before the House and Senate were to hold special meetings to attempt to override the vetoes of both the budget and trailer bills. A compromise that was over- whelmingly passed by both House and Senate, the next day, Sept. 16.

As part of the compromise agreement, the House and Senate adopted a new piece of legislation, Senate Bill 9, which alleviated some of the Governorʼs objections to the budget and trailer bills. Among other provisions, Senate Bill 9 includes funding for modest cost-of-living increases for New Hampshire state employees, which she had supported, but were not in the vetoed budget or trailer bill. 

However, Senate Bill 9 also includes small reductions in both the State Business Profits and Business Enterprise Taxes-reductions effective on Jan. 1, 2016. But smaller business tax reductions than the larger ones House and Senate Republicans had originally wanted in the vetoed trailer bill, and to which Gov. Hassan had objected because they would have cost the state too much revenue. More specifically, the bill would cut the Business Profits Tax from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent, while the Business Enterprise Tax would be lowered from 0.75 to 0.72.

Additionally, Senate Bill 9 calls for further reductions to both taxes on Jan. 1, 2018, contingent on a triggering mechanism. In other words, both reductions would only take effect or be “triggered” on the just-listed date, if the total amount of revenue in New Hampshireʼs General and Education Trust Funds reach or exceed a total of $4.64 billion for the current two-year operating budget which had started on Jan. 1,2015, and will end on June 30,2017.

Senate Bill 9 was adopted by a 291-73 roll call vote on Sept. 16 after a few hours of debate by the House and after the Senate had earlier approved the bill. Then the legislation was quickly sent to the Gov. Hassan for her signature. After the Governor had signed it into law, the House then overrode her veto of the budget (House Bill 1) by a 321-25 roll call vote, and later her veto of the trailer bill (House Bill 2) by a 326- 21 roll call vote. Next, the Senate overrode the vetoes of both bills by unanimous votes according to Concord Sen. Dan Feltes, with whom I talked after the Houseʼs Sept. 16 meeting, overrides to which she did not publicly object. 

Adoption of Senate Bill 9 and the subsequent veto overrides followed over two hours of debate in which several Republican representatives opposed to House Speaker Jasper and his leadership team, unsuccessfully attempted to postpone consideration of the bill, or at least amend it with “poison pill” amendments unacceptable to the Senate and Gov. Hassan. Such amendments included other bills which had been earlier vetoed by the Governor, but vetoes that had been sustained earlier the same day by both House and Senate. More on these vetoes in my next column.

These Republicans, including former Speaker William OʼBrien, claimed that Senate Bill 9 was being steamrolled through both the House and Senate. They stated that the bill, which had only been drafted the day before by House and Senate leadership of both parties led by Wolfeboro Sen. Jeb Bradley, was unconstitutional because it should have had a public hearing before being considered by House and Senate. But Speaker Jasper, in a rare move, temporarily stepped down from presiding over the House to defend the bill as well as the entire budget compromise. The Speaker declared that many of the billʼs provisions had been the subject of public hearings earlier this year, and likened the rest to legislative amendments debated and voted on the House floor without previous hearings. 

For readersʼ information, I voted for Senate Bill 9, and later voted to override both vetoes of the budget and trailer bills. I am not totally happy with all of the provisions in either this Senate bill or the budget and trailer bills. Especially, I am not happy that more money was not allocated to fund Grade K-12 public schools, including Claremontʼs schools. I also not happy that more revenue was not shared with municipalities like Claremont. Increased funding in both the just-described programs could have helped reduce local property taxes. But all three bills have some good provisions, including pay raises for state employees and more money for home health care services. Furthermore, I came to realize that a compromise between Gov. Hassan, whom I gen- erally support, and the legislatureʼs Republican leadership was necessary in order to end New Hampshireʼs economic uncertainty, caused by the lack of a two-year budget. So now we can move forward for the next two years, and maybe our national political leaders in Washington of both parties can learn from the Granite Stateʼs example.

Email: jocloutier@comcast.net.
Governor Comments On Budget Deal

CONCORD, NH-- – After signing Senate Bill 9, Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement: “This fiscally responsible, bipartisan, compromise budget addresses the central concern that I had with the original budget – unpaid-for tax cuts – by including important safe- guards that will help ensure long-term fiscal responsibility and protect our ability to support critical economic priorities in the future. I want to thank Senate President Morse, Speaker Jasper and legislators from both parties who worked over the past few months to reach this fiscally responsible, bipartisan compromise...”

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