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State Budget Update

Posted: June 5, 2015

State Budget Recap

Yesterday the NH Senate adopted their recommended state budget by largely endorsing the recommendations of the Senate Finance committee. In terms of spending (HB 1) there were no changes from the Finance committee’s proposals adopted by the full Senate. There were minor changes to HB 2 (spending mechanism) on the floor however none affected DHHS.

As a reminder, the Senate Finance committee recommended that the Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS) be funded at $23 million more in general funds when compared to the House budget. This was a positive step, however, it is still $3 million less in general funds than Governor Hassan’s recommended BDS budget.

There were several “floor amendments” or attempts to override the Senate Finance committee’s recommendations during yesterday’s debate.

In terms of DHHS, 3 floor amendments were offered, all failed

The governor has essentially stated she will veto the present version of the budget for a long list of reasons that you can read about here. The Senate addressed none of the governor’s concerns yesterday in terms of specific changes to the budget. Governor Hassan issued a statement today on the Senate’s final actions, which you can read here.

At this point, a committee of conference (COC) is likely to be set up next week. Rep. Kurk will chair this effort and Sen. Forrester will be the Senate lead. During this COC, the likely scenario is that the group will review all changes the Senate made from House actions. The conferees will either agree on the change and move on or discuss the issue further. Those issues discussed further will obviously be the key things to watch. It is possible, that new issues could be inserted in the budget during the COC phase. The governor has stated that she remains hopeful that the COC will in fact address the concerns she has with the current version of the spending plan. The present deadlines call for the COC to complete its work by June 18th. Following, the COC work the House and Senate must approve the budget as presented up or down (no more amendments).

Based on a variety of factors, the Area Agencies will be focusing our budget advocacy on removing the step 2 so called “savings” contained in HB 1. Next week, we will be releasing a letter on the issue to be followed up by direct outreach to members of the COC.

Crystal Ball

Should the budget be vetoed later this month, the House would immediately attempt to override which would take a 2/3 vote. The House republicans currently hold 238 seats while the democrats hold about 161. An override is highly unlikely to be successful. In other words, if the governor decides to veto the budget, HB 1 and HB 2 will be dead. Should this be the case, the COC could quickly reconvene to try and address the governor’s concerns. This could happen in a special session and it would allow the Legislature to send the governor a new budget before June 30.

Another option would be for the House and Senate to pass a continuing resolution, which would likely level fund state government at present levels for a short period of time while work continues on a plan the Legislature and governor can agree to support.

In 2003, then Governor Benson vetoed the state budget. Four days later, the veto was affirmed or sustained by the House. The Legislature then passed a 90-day continuing resolution (which Benson signed) this resolution essentially level funded state government. Governor Benson later signed a budget that fall.

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