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Save the surplus: State reserves are too low

December 28. 2013 1:00AM

You know that "reckless" and "irresponsible" 2011-13 state budget New Hampshire Democrats told you so much about for the last two years? Well, the Department of Revenue Administration has confirmed that it left New Hampshire with a $72.2 million surplus at the end of fiscal year 2013. And now the people who called it irresponsible want to spend half of what little savings are left.

The 2011-13 state budget was an achievement of historic significance. It actually reduced state spending below the previous year's levels. For that, it and its authors were called cruel. It was said that the budget would devastate New Hampshire.

It did not devastate New Hampshire. Rather, it brought spending in line with revenues for the first time in years and produced a big surplus.

The state already has spent $57 million of that surplus in the current budget - which the big-spenders also attacked as too stingy. But $15 million remains. Naturally, Gov. Maggie Hassan - who vigorously opposed both budgets, but ultimately signed and took credit for the current one - has proposed spending half of that.

State law requires budget surpluses to be deposited into the rainy day fund. But the Legislature has routinely suspended the law so it can spend the surpluses, which is why the state has less than $10 million in cash reserves. For some perspective, state budget officials warned a decade ago that the rainy day fund, then at $17 million, was too low. Gov. Hassan wants the state to go into 2014 with a reserve of only $16 million. The responsible thing to do is to save it all.

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