Every financially responsible organization has a savings account to tap in case of emergencies. The State of New Hampshire, with an $11.7 billion budget, has one. It holds $9 million. That is about 60 percent of what the state spends per day.
The last state budget produced a surplus, most of which was spent in the current budget. A little more than $15 million is left over. A bill before the House of Representatives today, House Bill 1411, would spend $7 million of that remainder on the Department of Health and Human Services and devote the other $8.3 million to the state’s savings account, called the rainy day fund. House Democrats argue that HHS needs the money to provide services to needy people.
There is no doubt that HHS could easily find people who would benefit from that $7 million. But the same can be said for the $8.3 million Democrats want to put away. If it is heartless to save the $7 million, which will fund only a portion of the shortfall HHS says it labors under this year, then it is equally heartless to save the remaining $8.3 million. Why not spend it all?
Because the state’s rainy day fund is desperately low. State Treasurer Catherine Provencher says the fund should hold no less than $70 million. Adding $8.3 million will not even double the state’s paltry savings, which are so low because legislators of both parties have repeatedly suspended the state law requiring that surpluses be saved.
A financially responsible Legislature would lead with its head, not its heart, and save the entire $15.3 million.