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Gov. Hassan's budget companion bill changes laws, funding

State House Bureau

March 05. 2013 9:13PM

CONCORD - Gov. Maggie Hassan's proposed budget would suspend state employee bumping rights and allow the Fish and Game Department to pay personnel costs from dedicated fish and wildlife funds.

The companion bill to the operating budget contains changes in law such as personal reductions and fund transfers. House Bill 2 was released Tuesday.

For the past two weeks, the state Republican Party has repeatedly charged that Hassan had not released the budget-related documents by what they claim is the statutory deadline of Feb. 15, although these bills typically have not been released by previous governors until sometime in March.

Last week, the state Republican Party filed a complaint with the attorney general's office over the issue.

Much of what is contained in the bill, Hassan explained in her budget address, including restoring some funding for such programs as revenue sharing, Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and school building aid in the second year of the two-year biennium.

The bill would establish commissions to study the Medicaid enhancement tax, charter school funding, Fish and Game Department sustainability and ways to improve government efficiencies through innovations.

HB 2 also contains the 20-cent-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax Hassan called for in her budget address, as well as a 50-percent increase in salt water fishing license fees, and changing banking fees to support the Banking Department.

The bill would suspend a number of business tax credits approved by last year's legislature and would eliminate the education tax credit scholarship plan funded by business tax revenues.

"The governor has worked with the House to develop legislative language to implement her fiscally responsible balanced budget proposal that invests in the priorities needed to create jobs and build a more innovative economic future," said Hassan communications director Marc Goldberg. "While our fiscal challenges mean we cannot restore all of the cuts made by the previous legislature all at once, the governor's balanced budget proposal significantly increases funds to charter schools, and in the second year fully funds the school building aid formula and increases rooms and meals revenue going to communities."

State Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn said the nearly three-week wait for the budget documents did not hide the flaws in Hassan's proposed budget.

"After submitting the details of her budget nearly three weeks late as required by law, it is disappointing to see that Gov. Hassan's budget really is just as feeble as we had suspected," Horn said. "Her house of cards budget is beginning to fall."

Horn criticized Hassan for including $80 million of revenue in her budget from casino gambling licensing fees, saying it risks the state's economic stability.

Charter schools funding is reduced in Hassan's budget, Horn claims, and it allows the state to retain $5 million in rooms and meals tax revenue rather than returning it to cities and towns.

Hassan's budget includes additional money for charter schools, but does not restore the open-ended funding that lawmakers ended two years ago. HB 2 allows the State Board of Education to determine if a charter school application meets geographic and content area needs for a region.

Hassan's budget continues to suspend revenue sharing with cities and towns as did the last two-year budget, but does provide additional rooms and meals revenues in the second year.

State Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley criticized Horn saying she is either trying to misinform the public or is misinformed herself.

"Jennifer Horn has embarrassed herself once again. In each instance she cited, the governor's budget increases funds over the devastating budget passed by the O'Brien GOP legislature," said Buckley. "Not to mention the fact that Horn is simultaneously calling for $80 million in cuts while asking for additional spending."

House Bill 1 and HB 2 will have public hearings in the next two weeks around the state beginning Thursday at the State House at 4 p.m.

The House Finance Committee is working on its version of the operating budget and the House will vote on it April 3.