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Hassan cuts? A surprising request

After campaigning on promises to "restore" funding cut from the state budget by the Republican-led Legislature, Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan sent a memo to state department heads on Wednesday asking that they trim 3 percent from their current budgets. We remember when Democrats thought - or at least said - that such cutting was cruel and irresponsible.

"These budget targets will give us options and flexibility to assess and respond to unfolding economic and external events," Hassan wrote in her memo. Was her opposition to more cuts just political posturing?

Republicans have tried for years to mandate that state department heads do what Hassan is asking them to do: submit budgets a certain percentage smaller than their existing budgets. In 2010, Republican candidate for governor John Stephen campaigned on it (he proposed a 10 percent reduction). Before Stephen ran, Republicans in the Legislature had proposed a 5 percent reduction. Democrats launched all manner of epithets at the ideas. Gov. John Lynch called Stephen's proposal "simplistic." Lynch later told department heads to cut 5 percent.

Then in 2011, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a bill mandating that department heads submit a maintenance budget and a budget that spends 10 percent less. Lynch criticized it, but let it become law without his signature. This fall, department heads are required to present budgets trimmed by 10 percent. So Hassan's request for budgets that are 3 percent smaller, though welcome, does not exactly push the envelope.

Still, this might be an indication that, despite all of her campaign rhetoric regarding "restoration," she is serious about the state living within its means. Or it could be more posturing. The real test will be in the budget she submits to legislators next year.


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