State budget cuts: Reality catches up with rhetoric
If you did not read Garry Rayno's State House Dome column this past Sunday, then you might be unaware of just how unrealistic Gov. Maggie Hassan's proposed budget is. As our State House reporter put it, "The House Finance Committee faces some staggering decisions in the next few weeks as members finalize the House's version of the state's two-year operating budget."
That is not hyperbole. Looking at House revenue estimates, Rayno reported that Hassan's budget spends between $100 million and $150 million more than the House believes the state will have in the next budget cycle. Right now, it looks like the state is heading for another dreaded game of Cut The Budget After Overestimating Revenues.
Hassan most famously counts on $80 million in casino licensing revenue from casinos that do not exist and might never be created. The word in Concord is that the House, which has never approved a slot-machine casino, remains unlikely to do so this year. But that is not the end of Hassan's wishful budgeting.
She counts on the Legislature raising the tobacco tax by 30 cents, on hospitals paying more in Medicaid enhancement tax revenue than they have been willing to pay in the last few years, and on about $47 million in other revenue that House experts say probably will not materialize.
Rayno reported that House Finance Committee Chairman Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord, said she is looking for "savings" in the budget. That means cuts. When Mary Jane Wallner wants to cut your budget, you can be dead certain about one thing: the money just is not there.
It is only March, and already Hassan's lofty promises of "restoring" funding cut by the previous Legislature are meeting the hard revenue reality. As John Lynch did before her, she has tried to delay the inevitable cuts by projecting rosy revenue figures. But the cuts will have to come. They always do.