Sen. Erin Hennessey

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IN AN UNPRECEDENTED legislative session, the New Hampshire Senate was challenged to come up with a state budget that met unprecedented challenges. I am proud of the work we’ve done, delivering a budget that spends responsibly, focuses spending on programs to serve New Hampshire’s most vulnerable populations, and delivers tax relief to Main Street businesses and homeowners across New Hampshire.

When I ran for the Senate, I promised voters that I would fight for lower taxes, particularly for New Hampshire homeowners and better schools. This budget lives up to those commitments.

We provide $100 million in direct property tax relief to every home and business in New Hampshire. This budget cuts taxes for everyone, giving a boost to families and Main Street businesses.

To assist local taxpayers, we have created a dedicated trust fund to share 30% of Meals and Rooms Tax revenue with cities and towns, providing $188 million for local tax relief. That’s an increase of more than $50.5 million from the last budget. We also increase support for county nursing homes by $21.4 million, easing the county tax burden.

As a member of the Senate Education Committee, I heard from many schools that the drop in enrollment last fall because of the pandemic would result in a drop in the school funding formula, giving districts less state aid next year when classrooms are full. I led the effort to fully fund state education aid, protecting our local schools from a $67 million drop.

Some schools need more help than others but previous efforts to address these needs have resulted in more lawsuits. I asked my Senate colleagues to create a Relief Funding Plan, setting aside $35 million in new money for schools most in need. We also commit $30 million in new money to state school building aid.

This budget also provides $6 million for the governor’s scholarship program and an additional $1.9 million for districts expanding to full-day kindergarten.

Through the pandemic switch to remote instruction, we saw that every child learns differently. Some thrive in their local public school while others need alternatives to succeed. This budget creates Education Freedom Accounts, providing state education aid to low-income families through approved scholarship organizations to seek out the best path for each student’s individual education. Wealthy families have always had school choice. Education Freedom Accounts provides more of these options to low-income families across the Granite State.

For the past decade, New Hampshire Republicans have focused on reforming our state’s business tax code to boost our economy and help small businesses succeed. Because of our fiscal leadership, the Granite State boasts one of the best economies in the country, with the lowest unemployment rate, the lowest poverty rate, and the most job openings in New Hampshire history. Our business-friendly culture helped New Hampshire come through the pandemic as strongly as any state and reopen faster. In spite of the pandemic-related shutdowns, our business tax revenues are exceeding expectations by more than $150 million, putting us in great shape to craft a responsible budget for all New Hampshire.

This year, we continue along the path of tax reform, further reducing the Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax, raising the filing threshold for the BET, and phasing out the Interest and Dividends Tax.

The pandemic has also exacerbated the struggles of Granite Staters dealing with mental health problems. Our budget fully funds a new forensic psychiatric hospital, freeing up beds at New Hampshire Hospital and allowing us to transfer patients from the secure psychiatric unit at the state prison. We provide $3 million to help veterans and seniors recover from the isolation of the COVID pandemic and increase funding for homeless shelters by $3.8 million.

These are some of the top priorities I’m proud to have as part of our responsible New Hampshire budget, a budget that works for all of New Hampshire.

Sen. Erin Hennessey (R-Littleton) is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

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