CONCORD — Citing robust state revenues, Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday urged House and Senate budget writers to add back $70 million in spending to his proposed $13 billion two-year state budget plan.
Sununu’s supplemental wish list includes matching money to preserve the Small Business Development Center and state aid to restore family resource centers for at-risk children.
Both moves signify an about-face for Sununu, who faced criticism over cuts to the programs’ spending in his initial budget.
They were detailed in a letter to the chairmen and ranking Democrats on the Senate and House finance committees.
Sununu’s request came a day after a report that that February tax and fee growth had helped the state build a revenue surplus more than $100 million higher than had been expected before the pandemic.
“The newly released February data show unaudited revenue performance 17 percent above plan for these same taxes — a tremendous improvement that speaks to the robust nature of this economic recovery,” Sununu wrote in his letter. “When the pandemic first arrived this time last year, none of us could have predicted an economic picture as bright as our economic reality today.”
Sununu, 46, noted that he based his budget on growth of less than 2% each of the next two years, and he would expect legislators to add back more spending if the economy continued to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Sununu’s letter didn’t specify a spending breakdown for the additional $70 million.
In his original budget, Sununu cut an annual $440,000 contribution to the Small Business Development Center, which it used to leverage $750,000 in grants.
SBDC Director Liz Gray had said losing the state match would mean the program would have to shut down.
Dems complain after change
On Wednesday, Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy of Manchester and ranking House Finance Committee Democrat Mary Jane Wallner of Concord condemned Sununu’s initial elimination of the SBDC funding.
“The items listed under the governor’s ‘additional needs’ should have been a top priority in his original proposal. Leaving the future of our Family Resource Centers, transitional housing, and the SBDC up to chance never should have happened,” Soucy said in a statement Thursday.
“While it is good to see these items receiving the attention they deserve following repeated calls for action by House and Senate Democrats, this is not a cause for celebration. It is a cause for alarm that they were not prioritized in the first place.”
Several children’s advocacy groups, including New Futures, MomsRising, the New Hampshire Children’s Trust and Family Support New Hampshire, had organized to pressure Sununu to restore the family resource centers and parental assistant programs absent from his initial budget.
“We cannot let this happen, and now we need to work together to ensure that the legislature restores these funds in the upcoming budget negotiations,” the groups posted in an action alert on social media.
Sununu also urged lawmakers to add back funding for transitional housing in the Department of Corrections and to fill vacant civilian jobs in the Department of Safety and jobs in the Department of Information Technology that provide shared services with other state agencies.
The House Finance panel has begun holding hearings as it builds its own spending plan for release next month. That committee would be the first place Sununu’s requests would be considered.
“I encourage the Legislature to consider this strong positive trend in revenue performance as the budget works its way through the process,” Sununu said.