CarriageTowneNews.com, Kingston, NH

July 4, 2013

My Opinion: July 4, 2013

By NH State Rep. L. Mike Kappler
Carriage Towne News

---- — CTN body text:RAYMOND —With a very strong support of both the House and Senate, the budget passed with flying colors... This budget is truly a continuation of the budget that we passed last term, that was then created by the Republican Speaker of the House, St. Rep. Bill O’Brien. As with every budget, there is one or two things you don’t like, but after the Committee of Conference the choice is vote yes or no. In the House HB-1-A passed RC 337-18, HB-2-FN-A-L passed RC 346-12, and HB-25-FN-A passed on voice vote.

The 2013-14 Budget Highlights

The committee of conference report on HB 1 (the budget bill) and HB 2 (the trailer bill) is one that fiscal conservatives supported.

Largely following the Senate versions of the two bills, the budget is balanced using reasonable revenue estimates without new or increased taxes or fees. Compared to the current biennial budget, it represents a 2.8% increase in general fund spending, at $10.7B over the biennium.

The Key Provisions

• Four business tax reductions passed in the 2011-12 session but delayed in the House budget, will take effect as planned.

• There will be no increase in the gas or cigarette taxes.

• There will be no Medicaid expansion in the budget. A study commission will present a report by October 15. Future legislative action is required if the state is to participate in expanded Medicaid.

• Charter school fully funding for current schools, approved schools, and four new schools is in the budget.

• Additional funding was provided for the Veterans Home to cover past unpaid utility bills and continue to provide a high level of care.

• Adequate education aid for 58 cities and towns has been increased by raising the so-called “cap” on the maximum increase in state aid from 105.5% to 108%, by nearly $4M over the biennium.

• Increases in the Salt Water Fishing license fee and Marriage License fee were removed.

• A provision allowing for the Governor to raid dedicated funds was deleted.

• The School Choice Tax Credit program passed last year will remain in effect.

• A reporting date was extended for an existing commission to study and report on the regulatory environment for expanded gambling.

• The state will pick up more of the counties’ costs for poor residents’ long-term care than had been proposed in the House budget, thereby helping the county tax payer.

• A loan and repayable grant was made to help the North Country’s Tri-County Community Action Program out of its current financial crisis and allow it to continue to provide services to its thousands of clients.

• The budget funds $16.9 million in general funds and $37 million in total funds for four labor contracts providing for a 6.2% cost-of-living increase for state employees, their first in several years. The cost of these contracts was not known to House or Senate finance committees during the budget process. It was first presented to the conference committee by the Governor’s labor negotiator. The funds to cover the cost came from unexpected revenues received in the current fiscal year from existing taxes.

• There are two major “back-of-the-budget” cuts in personnel: one is for $7 million in general funds at HHS; the other is for $10 million in general funds and $25 million in overall funds from all Executive branch agencies.

There were very few differences in program and service spending levels in the House and Senate versions of the budgets.

CTN body text:(Editor’s Note: NH State Representative Mike Kappler can be reached at l.mikekappler@comcast.net.)