Senate president says $70 million is the number for state budget cuts
Senate President Chuck Morse wants the governor to release her plans to cut $70 million from state government by the end of the month, after she told department heads at the end of last week to draw up plans to trim the 2015 fiscal year budget by $30 million.
By GARRY RAYNO, State House Bureau
CONCORD — Senate President Chuck Morse wants the governor to release her plans to cut $70 million from state government by the end of the month, after she told department heads at the end of last week to draw up plans to trim the 2015 fiscal year budget by $30 million.
The ongoing joust between Senate Republicans and Gov. Maggie Hassan over the state budget escalated when the GOP said her claim of $20 million surplus was really a $22 million shortfall.
Democrats jumped on the news that the Senate failed to meet the required savings in its budget during the past fiscal year, noting the governor and House both saved more than required under the budget plan.
But Morse said Tuesday that Hassan failed to limit spending to budget parameters, and doubts they will be met in the current 2015 fiscal year budget. Health and Human Services reports a $42 million shortfall in fiscal year 2015, he noted. Combined with the $30 million in cuts the governor is seeking, that is a 4 percent across-the-board cut to all departments, he said.
“We can’t kick those costs into the next budget,” Morse said. “Delaying action will only force deeper and more painful cuts.” But Hassan’s office defended her budget management, noting state agencies returned $8.5 million more than required under the 3.6 percent built into the budget. Over the years, state agencies are directed to save between 2 and 4 percent of their appropriations as a way to help balance the budget. In the 2014-2015 budget agencies are expected to save 3.6 percent of their budgets.
Hassan’s spokesman, William Hickle reviewed the steps Hassan has taken to ensure the state has a balanced budget, instituting a freeze on hiring, out-of-state travel and equipment purchases, telling state agencies to put off major purchases and recently telling state agencies to develop plans to trim $30 million from this year’s $2.8 billion general fund budget. “While Governor Hassan works closely with state agencies to carefully manage expenditures and ensure a balanced budget, she hopes that Senate Republicans will join her and take similar actions on their own budget,” said Hassan spokesman William Hinkle.
The Senate spent all but $2,678 of its $2.53 million budget, while the governor’s office saved $116,574 of its $1.55 million budget or 7.5 percent, and the House saved $189,934 of its $3.7 million budget or 5.13 percent.
Senate Republican leaders claimed state agencies, particularly Health and Human Services, were spending more than they were authorized under the state’s two-year budget, passed in June 2013. State agencies did spend $16 million more than authorized.
Senate Republicans claim Hassan used an unexpected $15.3 million surplus from the 2013 fiscal year to help balance the budget. The House wanted to use it to offset personnel reductions at HHS, but the Senate wanted the money to go into the rainy day fund.