Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, levels her attacks on House-passed budget

Apr 2, 2015 10:04 AM

NH1 News Political Report: April 2, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet

So what happens to the budget once it hits the Senate?

You can be sure the upper chamber will make dozens of changes to the plan and these are the three, most obvious at this early stage.

Business Taxes: Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, is determined to have business tax cuts part of the final negotiation. To achieve that he has to build a spending plan that cuts the state's taxes on corporate profits and business activity.

If the Senate budget includes cutting both business taxes, he's more likely to at least get one of them as part of the final solution.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has raised concerns about the tax cuts, saying the loss in revenue (up to $80 million in the first two years) could lead to devastating cuts in spending.

Senate Republicans maintain that static analysis of the revenue loss fails to recognize that business tax cuts could lead to more business growth in the state which would offset the red ink.

Keno: Forget about it. Morse and leaders in both political parties view letting people gamble at these games in bars and restaurants as diluting the pool of state profit available if the state would legalize a casino.

Look for the Senate to strike Keno from its budget. Morse and Co. believe House negotiators would more than likely back off since Keno was not in the proposed budget until the House membership approved it as a floor amendment from Rep. Bill Ohm, R-Nashua.

Rainy Day Fund: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jeannie Forrester, R-Meredith, is one who believes the state's $9 million balance in the fiscal emergency account was too small to begin with.

The House budget ultimately drained nearly $9 million from the fund as part of the compromise to eliminate the cuts to school districts.

House Finance Chairman Kurk admitted that State Treasurer William Dwyer said if the final budget had almost no money in the Rainy Day Fund that it could negatively affect New Hampshire's bond rating.

Watch for the Senate to restore at least $10 million to the fund and if they are able to add even some more cash into it.


Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley was on the hot seat on MSNBC this week and refused to commit there would be Democratic primary debates in New Hampshire.

Appearing on "Hardball with Chris Matthews,'' Buckley said it would be premature to say at this point.

"There has to be more than one candidate to be able to have a debate, and we don't know if there is going to be more than one candidate at this point," Buckley responded.

"Isn't [Jim] Webb running?" Matthews inquired.

"He hasn't contacted anyone in New Hampshire that I'm aware of," Buckley answered.

Matthews later pressed Buckley on whether this reluctance was because it would put Hillary Clinton on the defensive.

"Are you so afraid of Hillary Clinton and her peeps that you won't just say, damn it, we need to have debates, this is the Democratic party? We believe in debates?" Matthews asked.

"Say it, please," he said to Buckley.

"Well, I don't even know if the secretary has decided to run or not," Buckley said. "It's a little premature."

"This is absurd," Matthews responded.

It should come as no surprise that Republican State Chairwoman Jennifer Horn panned Buckley's performance.

"Buckley's obfuscating and obstinate performance on Hardball was an exercise in the worst kind of political Kabuki theater, to the point of embarrassing not only the chairman himself but the entire tradition of grassroots engagement we take very seriously in New Hampshire,'' Horn said.


The fight over worker's compensation reform is far from over.

Many were surprised when the N.H. Senate recently voted to re-refer its proposal (SB 3) to try and generate reductions in on-the-job-injury insurance for business.

The Senate voted by a voice vote to re-refer its bill after little public debate.

Privately there was plenty of talk in the closed-door Republican caucus as many desired for the Senate to take some action.

But Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, prevailed on the group to hold off and do some more work on it this summer and fall.

GOP conservatives suspect that Bradley was influenced by the medical services lobby led by hospital executives who opposed some of the proposals.

At any rate, this battle still lingers in the House of Representatives where the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services have retained their own bill (HB 477).

The House bill sponsored by Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, would impose a fee schedule on these payments, something that Bradley opposed as akin to "government price controls'' on the private marketplace.

So the House panel will at least be reporting out its bill later this fall.

But Rep. Will Infantine, R-Manchester, has told colleagues he would like the House to take a strong position on this issue before the 2015 session concludes.
It bears watching.


Now that the House has passed its budget, it's worth examining how close this house of cards came to falling down.

Last Friday, some conservatives were surprised that Americans for Prosperity would endorse the plan that cleared the House Finance Committee.

Now we know why.

"It was pretty clear at that point that this budget wasn't going anywhere and that's why we weighed in,'' said Greg Moore, state AFP director.

Moore also took his share of hits on Twitter and Facebook from some angry that he would come on board.

At that time, Moore said he thought the biggest obstacle to passing the House budget were the deep cuts in aid to local school districts.

And he was right.

Over the weekend, some House colleagues urged former Speaker William O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, to intercede and not allow the budget to fail.

It took some convincing but ultimately O'Brien agreed to get involved and dispatched his caucus chairman, Rep. Steve Stepanek, R-Amherst, to negotiate with House Finance Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare.

What resulted were long meetings between the parties on Monday and Tuesday which included House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, and Legislative Budget Assistant Jeff Pattison who merely showed House GOP leaders the impact of changes they would make.

One argument made to O'Brien and Co. was that if conservatives did not provide support to Jasper then he could pivot to the left and make a budget deal with the Democrats.

"We had to do something. It's unacceptable for the House not to have a Republican budget,'' Stepanek said.


The House budget did pass on a party line vote, 210-162, but there were some holdouts.

They were led by Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, a member of the House Finance Committee whose opposition to the spending plan caused Jasper to put Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, on the panel for all the budget actions.

There were only six others

- Rep. Ed Comeau, R-Brookfield;
- Rep. Susan Emerson, R-Rindge;
- Rep. Bart Fromuth, R-Bedford;
- Rep. Josh Moore, R-Merrimack;
- Rep. Adam Schroadter, R-Newmarket and,
- Rep. Kathleen Souza, R-Manchester.

All House Democrats stuck together and opposed the budget bill.

You've got give Jasper props for something; the House finished all its work on the plan by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, making the five plus hour debate on the budget one of the shortest and most efficient in recent memory.


Co-Quotes of the Week:

"This was an effort to look under every cushion on the sofa for what is called loose change.'' - House Finance Chairman Neal Kurk, R-Weare, speaks on the lengths budget writers went to trying to craft the spending plan.

"This amendment enables a budget that breaks its word with voters, taxpayers, with employers and with employees, to the elderly, to people with mental illness or disabilities. It is a budget with shocking and Dickensian assaults on our economy and its citizens.'' - Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, leading the opposition to the House budget.


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