Nov 13, 2014 3:14 PM

Kevin Landrigan: Gov. Maggie Hassan kicks off state agency budget hearings; message; start cutting

CONCORD - Barely a week off the campaign trail, Governor Maggie Hassan gave her marching orders for putting together what should be a challenging state budget for 2016-2017.

"We know there is still much more work to do make sure we live within our means,'' Hassan said at the opening of hearings on agency requests.

Bound by law to ask for what they really need, agency heads asked for a whopping 18 percent increase in state spending and a record, $12.3 billion budget from all sources.

Hassan said nothing like that is in the cards. Last summer she asked agencies to shave 2.5 percent in spending and said that is the right place to start.

"Although we have much to be optimistic about, we remain in very challenging fiscal times as the economy continues in recovery from the great recession,'' Hassan said.

What has made this a challenging state budget is the combination of bad news on both the spending and revenue front.

The state continues to recover from the recession and this has caused taxes paid from business owners and private investors to come in well under forecast.

Meanwhile, the tough economic times meant that caseloads for those seeking public assistance from the state have shot up over the past 15 months.

University system executives made their pitch for a 34 percent increase in state aid that would fully restore deep cuts first made in 2011.

UNH President Mark Huddleston said that 50 percent cut caused a cut in enrollments and a mass exodus of students to other state schools.

"New Hampshire is one of the largest exporters of college students in the nation. What that means is we are sending our talent elsewhere,'' Huddleston said.

The hearings continue throughout the week.

Hassan has until early February to work on her proposed budget and then formally propose it to the Legislature.


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