This state new budget, as expected, differs greatly from the budget proposed in February by Gov. Chris Sununu, according to Rep. David Meuse of Portsmouth.
1. Fair and balanced. As required by the state constitution, the budget delivered by the House will be balanced. Proposed spending does not exceed projected revenue.
2. No more bandaids. After years of kicking public education funding, college tuition costs, and our state’s mental health crisis down the road, the House budget addresses all of them in ways that move us closer to solving these long-term problems in a responsible way. No more patching them up with bandaids and leaving them unresolved for the next legislature.
3. More money for education. The House budget increases adequacy funding for public education by $164 million over the governor’s proposed budget. It brings more money to our state’s most vulnerable communities and directly addresses a public school funding crisis that has festered for three decades and recently forced Berlin to close its elementary school and other communities to sue the state. Unlike the governor’s budget, the House budget also fully funds kindergarten, special education, transportation, and school building aid.
4. No sales or income tax. To pay for funding $164 million more to schools, the House budget doesn’t rely on a sales tax or an income tax. Instead it extends the existing 5% investment earnings tax on interest and dividends to capital gains made on investment growth. Over 80% of the new revenue will come from taxpayers with incomes over $200,000, with more interest and dividends exemptions for taxpayers over age 65. This helps shift the tax burden from low-income property taxpayers to higher-income people earning healthy returns from their investments.
5. No donor towns.
6. Property Tax Relief. With the new House budget, revenue sharing to cities and towns will be re-established under the House budget for the first time in over a decade. Instead of a few communities receiving money for needed projects from the state surplus (as was the case in the governor’s budget), all New Hampshire communities will receive revenue sharing dollars. They also will get to decide how to spend these dollars instead of letting the governor decide.
7. More security for working families. The House budget substitutes a state-operated mandatory paid family and medical leave plan (already passed in the House and Senate) for the governor’s plan, which requires voluntary buy-in from private businesses. While opponents have labeled the House plan as a “tax”, it’s actually an insurance premium that pays for up to 12 weeks of leave at 60% pay replacement. It offers an easy, affordable way for more people to care for a new baby or tend to a sick relative without fear of losing all of their income.
8. Making difficult choices. While the House budget removes the $26 million dollars the governor had set aside to build a new Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) outside the state prison, this decision was made after listening to the testimony of disability advocates who felt that tying up so much money in a new facility would hamper mental health initiatives elsewhere. In place of a new SPU, the proposed House budget funds critical elements of the state’s new 10-year mental health plan, including mobile crisis units and suicide prevention activities left unfunded by the governor.
Also included in the House budget is $5 million to move the children from New Hampshire Hospital to a new location and $4 million for New Hampshire Hospital to renovate the space where the children used to be. That space could be used for the SPU if the Hospital feels it is appropriate. The bottom line is that the House is not saying “no” to new SPU building forever. The House budget simply taps the brakes and ensures that priorities with the potential to touch many more people are appropriately addressed in a budget environment where resources are limited but needs are great.
9. Making the right choices for our young people. The House budget invests in our young people by adding $14.1 million more for the state Community College System than the governor’s recommendation. It also adds $12 million more in state university funding—enough to allow a tuition freeze in the second year of the biennium.
10.It’s not over until it’s over. Once the House passes a budget, it will go over to the Senate, where major changes are likely. Once a budget passes in the Senate, a House and Senate conference committee will iron out the differences. Then both bodies will again vote on the combined budget. The governor will then have the option to sign it, to veto it, or to allow it to become law without his signature.