Sununu vetoes budget, signs continuing resolution

Gov. Chris Sununu speaks in his office Friday afternoon shortly after vetoing the two-year state budget the Legislature had passed the plan a day earlier. He signed a 90-day continuing resolution that keeps state government running until there's a compromise. (Courtesy Photo)

CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the $13 billion, two-year state budget Friday, concluding it contained unsustainable increases in state spending and “job killing tax increases.”

The move, while expected, came near the close of business and after some anxious moments as the two-term chief executive was left waiting to receive the budget until just before 5 p.m.

Obviously, Sununu wanted to get the budget veto settled before the weekend since the state’s fiscal year ends on Sunday.

“As governor sometimes you have to make the tough decisions,” Sununu said in a video he posted on Facebook and Twitter.

“I just vetoed the Legislature’s proposed budget because with today’s $260 million surplus it doesn’t make any sense to be raising taxes.”

The two-term Newfields Republican said he had signed a 90-day continuing resolution to keep government operating until a compromise can be reached later this summer.

“Until we get there, state government will remain open, services will be delivered and we’ll keep working together to get the job done,” Sununu added.

Democratic legislative leaders condemned Sununu’s veto.

For days, Sununu had been forecasting this action because while the Democratic-controlled Legislature yielded to some of his demands, they insisted on repealing cuts to the state’s two main business taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said the veto was the act of an autocratic, stubborn leader.

“With so many crises facing our children, our families, and our state, Governor Sununu’s veto of an entire state budget over one issue he didn’t ‘win’ on is just not the New Hampshire way. It is reckless, tone-deaf, and Trumpian,” said Feltes who is weighing his own Democratic primary bid for governor in 2020. “Our families, our economy, and our property tax payers all deserve better. They deserve a budget.”

Senate Finance Chairman Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said he had worked with Sununu and his staff to try and find common ground.

“The House and Senate listened to the governor and the people of New Hampshire and built a budget that helps everyone. The budget vetoed by Governor Sununu today did more for cities and towns than any budget in the last ten years while enacting meaningful business tax reform,” D’Allesandro said.

“The governor let this opportunity go by with the stroke of one red pen today simply because he wanted his way. That’s not what cooperative government is all about.”

Fiscally conservative and business groups praised Sununu for standing his ground.

“Turning back the clock and raising business taxes to 2018 levels is bad for the economy, especially considering state revenue since the first business tax reductions in FY16 has exceeded $450 million,” said Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

“We urge budget negotiators to return to the bargaining table.”

Some of the additional spending in this budget for child protection, mental health and addiction recovery had Sununu’s blessing.

But Sununu said it would have created a structural deficit of more than $90 million in future budgets and could force lawmakers in later years to “pull the rug” out from cities and towns that would now stand to gain millions in additional state aid from this plan.

“Unlike Washington, our state does not and should never pass unbalanced budgets. Taking out a big mortgage with a one-time bonus from work would be a terrible decision but that is precisely what this budget does,” Sununu summed up.