School funding change on hold
CONCORD - A key proponent of a constitutional amendment to target education funding to the neediest school districts has put off her latest effort until next year.
State Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, said that after meeting with Gov. Maggie Hassan and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, she decided to "work with the governor and interested parties to agree upon consensus language over the coming months with the goal of introducing a proposed amendment" early in 2014.
Proposed constitutional amendments have almost annually been offered in the Legislature for many years to address the Claremont school funding decision.
Last year, then-Gov. John Lynch supported the language of a consensus proposed amendment sponsored by top legislative Republicans, but it failed to receive the necessary three-fifths majority in the House to be passed to the voters on the November 2012 ballot.
Hassan opposed the language of last year's proposed amendment but has been not ruled out discussing alternative language.
Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said Friday she is focused this year on developing a budget and "implementing her innovation plan to help businesses create jobs."
He said Hassan and Stiles have had "productive conversations and agree that this session is not the time to focus on the constitutional amendment on education.
"If there is a consensus around a workable education funding solution in the future, the governor is willing to be a part of those conversations," said Goldberg.
Stiles said a constitutional amendment to target aid "must continue to be a top priority of the Legislature."
But she cited "difficult decisions ahead concerning the state budget, expanded gaming and expanded Medicaid" as the reason for her decision to delay introducing the amendment until next year.
Stiles continued in a statement, "We have made significant progress in agreeing on new language for an amendment, but given other pressing needs, we were not able to finalize the wording" by a deadline for filing legislation, which passed on Thursday.
"I have received personal assurances from Governor Hassan that this amendment will be a priority of hers upon the completion of the budget," Stiles said, "and I look forward to working with her, members of her staff, and legislators from both parties to introduce an amendment early next year.
Stiles said the delay "will give us enough time to get the language right and the Legislature and the public opportunity to focus on and debate this important policy."