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State budget plan greeted as mixed bag

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 14. 2015 8:29PM

CONCORD - Public policy experts and the state's political parties had mixed reactions to the proposed $11.5 billion biennial budget proposal unveiled Thursday by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The good

In a statement issued Thursday, Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, praised the governor's proposed budget as addressing revenue needs through such moves as closing offshore tax loopholes and not looking to reduce business taxes.

"By doing so, the governor's budget is able to preserve valuable investments in higher education and other areas critical to the state's economic future," McLynch said.

However, McLynch said, the proposal "neglects other opportunities to reform New Hampshire's rickety revenue system, such as extending the state's interest and dividends tax to include capital gains. This incremental, common sense change would generate needed resources and make New Hampshire's revenue system more equitable and more sustainable over time."

The bad

Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, called the governor's budget proposal "disappointing," saying the introduction of a Keno-style game is not innovation and a cigarette tax hike is "hardly tax reform." He said she offered no new priorities except the commuter rail spending.

"It seems she believed the Legislature would go their own way on the budget so there was no sense in her wasting any real time or real effort," Arlinghaus said. "This is why so many Americans quite correctly find politics and politicians irrelevant."

Arlinghaus was particularly critical of Hassan's proposal to hire a chief operating officer for the state.

"The governor is the state's chief operating officer. If we hire someone to do that, we need to stop paying her," he said.

Greg Moore, director of Americans For Prosperity-New Hampshire, criticized Hassan's proposal to increase spending while raising some taxes.

"Governor Hassan had a real opportunity to be a partner in producing a fiscally responsible budget that put New Hampshire on the path to prosperity," Moore said in a statement released Thursday. "Unfortunately, she chose to offer a budget that runs up spending and adds new taxes onto the hard-working citizens of the state."

The ugly

The proposal by Hassan, a Democrat, met with predictable reactions from the state's political party leaders.

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn criticized Hassan for including revenue from a Keno game that hasn't been approved, likening it to Hassan's move two years ago to include $80 million in revenue from a casino in her proposed budget, even though no casino was approved.

Hassan did not include casino gaming revenue in her latest proposal.

"Hassan's decision to include more imaginary gambling revenue in her latest proposal proves that she didn't learn her lesson and that she is out of new ideas to balance the budget," Horn said.

"Governor Hassan's proposed billion dollar spending increase and reckless tax increases demonstrate her lack of commitment to New Hampshire's fiscally responsible values. The governor's budget is the wrong approach, and it will threaten New Hampshire's fiscal integrity."

Conversely, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said the budget "will keep New Hampshire's economy moving in the right direction by holding down the cost of higher education, keeping our roads safe and maintaining the state's commitment to our bipartisan health care expansion."

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