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December 26. 2013 9:12PM

State Republicans urge using surplus to replenish rainy day fund

CONCORD — State revenue officials have confirmed that there was a $72.2 million surplus at the end of 2013 fiscal year, prompting renewed calls from Republican leaders to replenish the “rainy day fund.”

The Department of Revenue Administration released its comprehensive financial report earlier this week showing that the state finished fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30, $72.2 million in the black. The surplus, the largest in eight years, confirmed the DRA’s projections in October.

The question of how much of the surplus to transfer to the Revenue Stabilization Account, commonly called the rainy day fund, will likely be an early battle when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

A large chunk of the surplus has already been earmarked for the current 2014 budget, but $15.4 million has not been allocated.

On Thursday, Republican leaders said the large surplus was largely a product of the budget the GOP passed in 2011, and they called for the remaining $15 million surplus to be placed in the rainy day fund.

“With the good news of $15 million more than was originally projected in June, I urge caution,” House Republican Leader Gene Chandler said in a statement. “We must not rush into spending this money and show the same fiscal responsibility we have in the past. These surplus funds should be set aside for future emergencies, and not spent on the unnecessary expansion of government.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan has indicated that she wants a portion of the surplus to go to the rainy day fund, but also to restore cuts to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“The Governor continues to believe that we should take the fiscally responsible step of using a portion of the surplus to begin rebuilding the rainy day fund and a portion to reduce back-of-the-budget cuts to DHHS that no one liked and that could impact vital services for New Hampshire families,” said Marc Goldberg, the governor’s spokesman, in an email.

In her message accompanying the 2013 financial report, Hassan wrote, “After years of immense challenges caused by the worst recession in generations, 2013 brought clear signs that New Hampshire’s economic future is strong and poised for innovative growth.”

By statute, any surplus from the previous fiscal year must be placed in the rainy day fund, but lawmakers can suspend the rule, as they have in the past.

Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire, a conservative advocacy group, also called for the surplus to be set aside for when the fiscal climate darkens.

“It’s time for the state to build up its financial reserves to protect against a possible economic downturn as well as to shore up the state’s bond rating,” Greg Moore, the group’s director, said in a statement. “The last budget was a prime example of sound budgeting. ... Now it’s time to take the fruits of that sound financial management and protect it from the hungry big spenders who will lick their chops at the opportunity to grow government.”

House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, was unavailable for comment on Thursday.tsiefer@unionleader.com


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