NHGOP files complaint with AG vs. Hassan alleging late budget documents
By JOHN DiSTASO Senior Political Reporter
CONCORD -- The state Republican Party on Monday filed a complaint with the Attorney General's office alleging Gov. Maggie Hassan has failed to meet a statutory Feb. 15 deadline for filing and making public budget-related documents.
"We are working on the document," Hassan said on a conference call from Washington, D.C. "It's being drafted," and she said she is still "on the early side" in preparing the documents compared to most past years.
She said that historically, those documents have often been submitted after the deadline.
The issue has become a topic for State House political banter in recent days, and that was the case on Monday.
The state Democratic Party chairman called the GOP move "frivolous" and "a pathetic political ploy" by a party "bereft of ideas."
Although the governor has submitted her budget, her office has not yet submitted the other documents, which form the basis for a bill, known as House Bill 2, containing the necessary changes to law brought about by the budget.
It used to be known as the "trailer bill," or even "Christmas tree bill."
Many years ago, legislative changes brought about by budgets, and even unrelated to budgets, were tucked into myriads of footnotes to the budgets themselves. But that practice ended in 1984 with passage of a constitutional amendment and separate bills have been traditionally filed along with the budget bills.
Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said Monday, "We're working to finalize the technical language" of this year's HB2 with the Legislative Services office.
Hassan's office pointed out that an online history of past budget documents shows that only once in the past 20 years have those documents, in the form of HB 2, been submitted on Feb. 15.
That was in 2001 by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat and current U.S. Senator.
Two years later, under Republican Gov. Craig Benson, House Bill 2 was submitted on Feb. 20. But in all other budget cycles, HB 2 was not introduced until March, sometimes late March. Those late filings were routinely accepted by the House.
But state Republican chair Jennifer Horn said in a letter to Attorney General Michael Delaney that Hassan's "actions are irresponsible and are prohibiting the Legislature from fully reviewing her reckless proposal."
She asks Delaney "to instruct the governor's office to immediately comply with the law."
Horn wrote that Hassan "is constructing a fiscally irresponsible house of cards that could collapse at any minute because it relies on $80 million in non-existent casino licensing revenues."
Noting that Delaney's term as Attorney General expires on March 31, Horn wrote, "I recognize that you are in a difficult position to take action against Governor Hassan's blatant attempt to subvert New Hampshire law given you are soon facing re-nomination to your position. I am also aware that you are one of the most prominent New Hampshire Democrats to speak out against the governor's budget and oppose her irresponsible revenue scheme. I congratulate you on your courageous and principled stand against bad policy that threatens our state's fiscal integrity.
"But any attempt by Governor Hassan to reject your re-nomination as a result of your opposition to her budget or your efforts to force her to comply with state law would be viewed as politically vindictive. I would hope that Governor Hassan would realize this and refrain from punishing you for simply doing your job and doing what is best for the State of New Hampshire," wrote Horn.
The Attorney General's Office did not respond to UnionLeader.com's request for comment.
State Democratic chairman Raymond Buckley responded in a statement, "The NHGOP is proving once again that they have no ideas to offer the people of New Hampshire to create jobs and move our economy forward.
"Instead of reevaluating their far right stances to actually appeal to voters, the state GOP has decided to focus on a pathetic political ploy that will cost Granite Staters by wasting the time of our Justice Department.
"Having suffered historic losses at all levels this past November, the New Hampshire Republican Party is reduced to political grandstanding while Democrats pursue policies that will help the lives of hundreds of thousands of Granite State citizens," Buckley said.
"This state's Republican party is so bereft of ideas to move New Hampshire forward that they are reduced to filing frivolous lawsuits in a Justice Department already overworked as a result of the draconian cuts imposed on it by Chairwoman Horn's mentor, (former House speaker) Bill O'Brien," said Buckley. "Frankly, I think if any deadlines should be on Chairwoman Horn's mind, it should be the deadline that her taxes are due on."
Buckley was referring to Horn's efforts to resolve $92,000 in outstanding personal income taxes due the IRS.