House budget writers close in on final spending plan
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
House budget writers are wrapping up their two-year spending plan and it's a lot smaller than the one Governor Maggie Hassan proposed.
``We have had to reduce the governor's proposed budget by approximately $240 million in general funds,'' said House Finance Committee Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare.
Time after time, Republicans on the Finance Committee stuck together, embracing cuts to human services, state workers and aid to cities and towns.
Governor Hassan's spokesman said the cuts were quote irresponsible and would take the state backwards unquote.
A key flashpoint with Democrats is this would end Hassan's Medicaid Expansion and deny substance abuse coverage for low income adults.
``We have very limited treatment and for those lucky enough to get it, recovery is possible but the problem is we have thousands of New Hampshire residents without access to basic substance abuse services in our state,'' said Tym Rourke, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and other Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment.
These cuts became essential because the House budget rejects Hassan plans to raise more money by legalizing Keno, raising the cigarette tax and taxing more business owner wages.
House Speaker Shawn Jasper privately expressed concern that enough Republicans would back this budget to get it through the full House.
``The majority was elected to bring in a budget that did not raise taxes,'' Kurk said.
``NH1 News has confirmed House Speaker Shawn Jasper met with leaders of the Finance Committee and expressed concern about whether there would be enough votes to pass this through the full House,'' Landrigan concluded.
Here's a listing of some of the cuts proposed in the pending House Finance Committee plan:
[-] Department of Transportation: $88 million less compared to existing spending, would lead to 700 layoffs and making local communities take over maintenance of 2,500 miles of roads that are now state maintained.
[-] Higher Education: Cut Governor Hassan's aid proposal by $13 million for four-year colleges and $5 million for two-year schools. With the House budget, the University System of New Hampshire would receive 8 percent more over the next two years; Hassan wants to give them twice as much of an increase.
[-] Local Education Grants: Cuts stabilization grants by $46 million which will hit hardest those school districts with declining enrollments; increased education aid by $12 million for students with special needs.
[-] State workers contract: House budget would not pay for negotiated pay raises for state workers, saving $12 million in state dollars;
[-] Women's Prison: The House budget would save $11 million by getting rid of personnel for a new prison for women; last week state officials confirmed they were putting the project off for a year because the construction project came in way over budget.
[-] Optional Benefits: The House budget saves $9 million by getting rid of services for Medicaid that aren't required under federal law; these include wheelchair vans, private duty nursing and hearing aids for clients over 21 years old.
[-] ServiceLink: This would get rid of resources centers used by seniors, veterans and the disabled where clients get information about available services.