Will conservative Republicans sink GOP budget in state House of Representatives?
CONCORD – Republican state House of Representatives Speaker Shawn Jasper says he has “no predictions” on whether the budget approved last week by the Finance Committee will be passed this week by the full House.
And a leading conservative lawmaker told NH1 News on Monday that he and his allies “cannot accept” the budget crafted by the GOP dominated Finance Committee because it’s “dishonest” because more than $200 million in federal funds were omitted from the final draft.
Gov. Chris Sununu, the first Republican in the Corner Office in a dozen years, proposed $12.1 billion two-year budget in February, a sizeable increase over the current $11.3 billion budget. The House Finance Committee chopped the budget down to $11.9 billion. Among the items dropped was Sununu’s plan to spend $18 million over the biennium to fund full-day kindergarten state wide.
Four-term Rep. JR Hoell told NH1 News that the House Finance Committee’s budget is “hiding $219 million.”
The Republican lawmaker from Dunbarton said that the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, Rep. Mary Jane Wallner of Concord, and GOP Rep. David Bates of Windham, who also sits on the committee, will try to restore the expected federal funds.
Hoell said they hope to “make it an honest budget coming out of finance in terms of not hiding money that should actually bet there. This are federal revenues. This is Medicaid money. This is loan repayments. This is real money. And then we can have a discussion over whether this is a $12.1 billion budget or whether we should actually cut this down to the $11.9 million. And I believe that 11.9 is the place to go. But we should have honest tax cuts in there. Not just a gimmick.”
“At the end of the day, this is dishonest. I’m interested in an honest budget. So there will be a bipartisan amendment to put these back in,” he added.
Jasper calls push by conservatives ‘irresponsible’
As the House Finance Committee briefed members assembled in Representatives Hall on Monday regarding the budget, NH1 News observed Speaker Jasper and Hoell quietly having a lengthy private conversation.
Jasper defended the budget against conservative complaints, telling NH1 News “we have no new taxes, no new fees. We have approximately the same dollar increase as we had in the last biennium, which means the percentage is smaller.”
“They say ‘well we want to cut more’ and they don’t really have any solutions,” he added. “We have to pass a balanced budget. You can’t just say ‘well we’re going to cut taxes’ and let somebody else worry about the spending. That’s irresponsible.”
The full House will vote on the budget Wednesday. With 222 members in the GOP caucus in the nearly 400 member body, Jasper can afford to lose around two-dozen votes and still pass the budget.
Jasper shouldn’t expect any help from the Democrats. House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, the top Democrat in the chamber, told NH1 News his caucus is unified in opposition to the budget.
Jasper cautioned that “what this does if this were to go down on Wednesday is that we have no position on the budget. Any of the good things in here. Any of the new initiatives. Any of those things unless the Senate puts them in, they become non-germane.”
“If we kill our own version, we don’t have a House position. And that’s a stupid place to be,” Jasper bluntly added.
But Hoell said that the budget’s dishonest because “one, in terms of the actual revenue projections. And two, there’s no business tax cuts, there’s no individual tax cuts in this. And at time when we’re seeing increasing revenues from the state, we should be returning some of it back to the taxpayers.”
And he said he’ll be just fine if the House doesn’t approve a budget.
“I am OK personally and I believe people who want to see an transparent, honest, open budget, are willing to let us go into a committee of conference accepting the Senate position because it’s likely to be a better budget than anything the House is generating right now,” Hoell told NH1 News.