Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, explains the hows and whys of the budget deal

Sep 17, 2015 4:33 PM

NH1 News Political Report: Sept. 17, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet

CONCORD - There’s a very interesting provision in the compromise budget deal that reveals some deep-seated suspicion among Republican legislative leaders.

It all has to do with the so-called trigger in the business tax cuts, the point by Dec. 31, 2017 when the state has to verify that all revenues for the previous biennium had reached a stated benchmark in this case, $4.64 bill.

The kicker: Who does the counting?

It’s the Legislative Budget Assistant Michael Kane who only took this job two weeks ago upon the retirement of longtime LBA Jeff Pattison.

Here’s what makes this unusual. You would always have the Department of Revenue Administration, the tax regulatory agency, looking at the tax structure and determining how much came in or didn’t during a certain period.

Revenue Commissioner John Beardmore is highly regarded by GOP legislative leaders. This is not about him but it is an institutional feud.

And it’s got some history.

The last time GOP lawmakers cut taxes was in 2011 when then-House Speaker Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, engineering the first cut in the tobacco tax in New Hampshire history.

But again he only got then-Gov. John Lynch to agree not to veto the tax cut by putting in a trigger that would have the tax cut go away if tobacco taxes declined after the first year of experience.

Well when that first report came in tobacco taxes had come up short and the tax cut was eliminated.

GOP legislative leaders have told the New Hampshire Political Report they suspected since that very day that mid-level bureaucrats in the DRA deliberately held back the purchase of tobacco tax stamps and didn’t report them until after the June 30 fiscal year had ended.

In their view having the LBA do the math would give lawmakers more confidence there wasn’t any reporting of the revenue with an eye towards wanting the second half of the business tax to happen or not.


By the way another thing that drew out these negotiations were what made up the trigger.

Lawmakers close to Hassan wanted it to be based on revenue from business taxes alone; why should tax cut backers get to keep them if other taxes that had nothing to do with the break went up enough to overcome slumping business receipts?

But GOP legislative leaders are only too well aware from past history that business tax performance closely parallels economic cycles.

Another slumping recession or a booming recovery would do more to deflate or enhance business tax collections more than any state tax cut would.

So they finally agreed to compromise on all revenues; this does put some emphasis on business taxes since they make up nearly 30 percent of receipts.


Here’s what you haven’t been told about the departure of former Senate President Peter Bragdon as CEO of the New Hampshire Health Trust.

Bragdon is right publicly when he states the agency has a better image with the political establishment and is on more sound financial footing than it was when he took over more than two years ago.

That’s why, however, you keep him on the job, not why you let him leave.

They gave Bragdon his walking papers plain and simply because as the onetime powerful legislative leader he had one political task to accomplish and he failed miserably at it.

Job one: Get the so-called Local Government Center out of the hostile regulatory clutches of Secretary of State Bill Gardner and into the friendly confines of the Department of Insurance.

Bragdon tried in two straight budgets to get that done and came up short.

In fairness to Bragdon, this was not any layup at all. He had in his corner both President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Senate Finance Chairwoman Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith but so much push back to the LGC which had nothing to do with Bragdon.

Now there’s a national search for Bragdon’s replacement and General Counsel David Frydman is the interim executive.

Frydman used to be legal counsel when Democrat Terie Norelli of Portsmouth was speaker of the New Hampshire House.

Don’t ask bipartisan senators and staff their opinions of Frydman; they often locked horns and again Frydman was just carrying out the House position but that’s the irony.

For the time being, the LGC/Health Trust goes from someone everyone in the Senate was fond of (Bragdon) to someone who they are not (Frydman).


We should have known something was up when Stefany Shaheen, the eldest daughter of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, would look down the barrel at a certain trip to become mayor of Portsmouth and say, ``No thanks.’’

When Portsmouth Mayor Robert Lister passed on his own re-election, the mayor’s spot (top council vote getter) was Shaheen’s for the asking.

But like New Hampshire Democrats are famous for, the power elite was already making plans.

Who’s behind the we want SS for Governor movement? Let’s start with Emily’s List, the largest political action committee on the left and the one dedicated to supporting mostly women, pro-choice candidates for high office.

They were behind the push to the elder Shaheen to first run for governor and for Maggie Hassan to first run for the State Senate and then the corner office.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Hassan has been looking more and more like a candidate for Senate rather than one for re-election. She’s appeared with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, three times in the past month and twice enlisted Shaheen to help her make a state budget pitch.

Hassan’s also appeared with Ayotte at two public events including side by side at the Labor Day parade in Milford.

And many believe that the deal she made on the state budget [-] to cut both business taxes and give a pay raise to state workers [-] helps blunt charges that she had become a partisan chief executive and a tax and spender.

Meanwhile, leading Democrats are given the brazen okay to talk openly about the prospects of a Hassan Senate campaign as US Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, did earlier this week.

This will be no coronation if it comes to pass, however.

Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, has been waiting in the wings for Hassan to make the call and would not move an inch until Hassan made the move.

And Van Ostern has his fans. Progressives Change Campaign Committee are their own real force on the left and they raised $1 million to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for and win the US Senate seat in Massachusetts from Republican Scott Brown.

The New Hampshire Political Report obtained an e-mail survey they had sent out on Thursday without advance notice this would be the day the Stefany Shaheen speculation would leak.

"As you know, New Hampshire has many exciting races on the ballot next year. Not just for president. If Maggie Hassan runs for Senate, the Senate and Governor races will be super exciting, wrote Adam Green, PCCC co-founder.

Here’s how they show enthusiasm for Van Ostern in their self-described, ``super-short survey.”

"If Maggie Hassan runs for US Senate, some New Hampshire activists say that progressive Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern [-] who has advocated for debt-free college and to protect Planned Parenthood [-] should run for governor. Do you think he should?’’

It then asks you if ``Are there others you think should run for governor if Maggie Hassan runs for US Senate?’’


We saw firsthand here how prickly presidential candidates get in the first-primary state when they are dogged by local press.

This week’s exhibit was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who after a campaign stop with Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas gets cornered an indefinite suspension football player Leonte Carroo at Rutgers University for an altercation outside the stadium and whether it means Christie has lost confidence in the coach.

"They are having disciplinary problems with teenagers. This is not shocking. I’m a father of four; I’m having disciplinary problems with teenagers. It is the normal course on a college campus,’’ Christie exploded.

"The breathless media coverage of this and every time there’s a problem it’s an indication of some deep-seated problem at Rutgers. Man, you guys gotta find something else to do and I’ve certainly got more important things to do than worry about what wide receiver was suspended for a few games recently.

"Being governor of New Jersey and running for President is a little more important than that.’’

Here’s the curious postscript. Less than 48 hours after Christie’s outburst in Manchester, Rutgers Football Coach Kyle Flood got suspended for three games and fined $50,000 for contacting faculty about the grades of his former cornerback.

Both Flood and the cornerback, Nadir Barnwell, admitted the coach made minor changes to a paper the student submitted.

A legislative committee to bird dog future pay raises for public employees.

It was enshrined in state law for more than 20 years and was so little used that lawmakers let the panel dissolve itself and go out of existence.

Now with the new compromise a reconstituted Joint Committee on Employee Relations and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, is made its chairman for 2015-2016.

"I just think it makes sense for the Legislature to be more involved in this and think we should have been in the past,’’ Morse told the New Hampshire Political Report.

They both finished so well out of the running in their own campaigns for President, but Republican Jon Huntsman and Democrat Joe Lieberman say they’ll always consider New Hampshire a special place.

Lieberman came in fifth in 2004 despite having rented an apartment in Manchester so he could spend nearly full-time in the state in the six weeks leading up to the primary.

Huntsman did better, but his third-place showing still left him out of the money and he was passed by.

"I’ll always feel like it’s my second home,’’ Huntsman said.

Lieberman chipped in ``Special memories, made friendships that I’ll never forget and will always be grateful for how me and my entire family were treated in the state.’’

The two were promoting the ``No Labels’’ Campaign calling for bipartisanship to solve the nation’s problems.


Another potential congressional candidate finds other employment.

Longtime BAE executive and former 1st District hopeful Rich Ashooh of Bedford is out of the potential running for that seat in 2016 after having taken over as interim president of the UNH School of Law.

"There’s a fantastic group on this campus that already is going to make me look very good,’’ Ashooh said during a brief interview at NH1. ``I’m very excited about this opportunity and going to be going 95 miles an hour to prove worthy of their trust in me.’’

Ashooh was widely viewed as a serious challenger to US Rep. Frank Guinta’s bid for a third term in 2016 if that race had come to pass.

Guinta already has a real fight on his hands as 2014 candidate and Portsmouth businessman/educator Dan Innis is exploring another go at it next year.


House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, learned just how awestruck his peers are about the New Hampshire experience.

Jasper spent much of the end of last week at the summer meeting of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation in Nashville, TN.

The Hudson Republican came bearing gifts for his 50 counterparts as House leaders, giving each one a commemorative New Hampshire license plate that highlights our first-in the-nation primary tradition.

House speakers who feel preyed upon count their blessings at hearing about Jasper having to corral more than 395 members.

"They think they have it hard to build consensus,’’ Jasper quipped upon his return.


Sure it’s a little late but there continue to be head scratchers at the timing and manner of Chris Sununu’s bid for governor in 2016.

Sununu chose to make the announcement without warning or alerting reporters to even bother showing up at an otherwise routine, Labor Day party in his hometown of Salem.

Fortunately for Sununu, 2016 GOP contender Scott Walker was stopping in at the holiday celebration so some reporters were there including NH1 News Political Director Paul Steinhauser.

Even Democrats who don’t wish Sununu well publicly cringe at the move since they know as fellow politicians Sununu did not get the media bang or buzz he should have gotten from it.

"I mean don’t they drop news about scandals during the Labor Day holiday weekend,’’ joked Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Dalton. ``It’s a day you put out news you don’t want to get covered. It was strange to say the least.’’

All that said, Sununu’s early move will lead to its intended result: it should convince many prominent Republicans in the state to reconsider going for the corner office.


Co-Quotes of the Week:

"Backroom deals are made in secret and carried out in secret. They are things that should never come to public votes. It was no backroom deal.’’ - An angry House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, lashes back at followers of former House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, who charged the House leader had played political games and was engaging in a back-room deal.

"To quote that noted philosopher Mick Jagger, It’s true in rock and roll and it’s true in life. You can’t always get what you want, today New Hampshire is going to get what it needs.’’ - Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, on why lawmakers need to bury the hatchet and adopt the compromise budget deal.



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