CarriageTowneNews.com, Kingston, NH

June 13, 2013

My Opinion: June 13, 2013

By NH State Representative L. Mike Kappler
Carriage Towne News

---- — CTN body text:RAYMOND — The Senate Finance Committee budget makes significant improvements over both the Governor’s budget and the House budget, including: lower total spending, the use of realistic revenue estimates, no tax or fee increases, and increased funding for education and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Senates version is a responsible budget that invests in education and critical services without raising taxes, including:

CTN body text:Spending: Without raising taxes, the Senate budget spends only what the state can afford at $10.7 billion over the biennium, a modest three-percent increase from the last biennium. The Senate’s total spend is approximately $400 million less than the Governor’s budget, and $300 million less than the House version.

CTN body text:Revenues: The Senate budget relies on realistic revenue estimates that recognize an increase in business taxes over the House budget, based on recent strong returns in the BPT and BET, but are more conservative in other traditional revenue categories, including a reduction of more than $100 million in expected MET revenues.

CTN body text:No Tax Increases: The Senate budget does not increase taxes or fees. It removes the 12-cent gas tax and the 20-cent tobacco tax passed by the House as well as House-passed tax increase on salt-water fishing and marriage licenses. Additionally, the Senate preserved the business tax cuts and reform efforts enacted last session that both the Governor and House proposed suspending.

CTN body text:Education: The Senate budget made education funding a priority by:

· Increasing the combined general fund spending to the University and Community College System (CCSNH) by over $100 million from last biennium. The USNH appropriation increased from $83 million to $153 million, and the appropriation for the CCSNH increased from $52.2 million to $82.5 million.

· Directing $24 million to restore and fully fund the UNIQUE Scholarship program for deserving, low-income New Hampshire residents attending college in state;

· Increasing adequate education grants to cities and towns by nearly

$4 million over the biennium;

· Fully funding existing charter schools and providing funding for four new charter schools;

· Maintaining the School Choice Scholarship Program.

Health and Human Services: The Senate budget appropriates $300 million more to the Department compared to last biennium. This includes full funding for the Developmentally Disabled waitlist, restoration of the breast and cervical cancer screening and prevention program, and a significant increase in payments to County nursing homes over the House version. In addition, the Senate maintained the House’s level of funding for the Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program, domestic violence prevention, and mental health services.

CTN body text:Uncompensated Care Program: The Senate increased funding for the state’s uncompensated care program by $20 million over the House’s budget to ensure both critical access hospitals as well as the state’s larger hospitals receive reimbursement for a portion of the care they provide to low-income patients.

CTN body text:Expanded Medicaid: The Senate budget removes provisions expanding Medicaid in New Hampshire, opting instead to study the long-term costs of expansion via a bipartisan commission. The commission is charged with issuing a report by next December on a wide range of issues including the use of private insurers to cover New Hampshire residents and the impact the expansion will have on taxpayers, patients, and providers.

CTN body text:Dedicated Funds: The Senate budget removes provisions requested by the Governor that would have granted her significant authority to raid dedicated funds to fill potential budget shortfalls. The Senate also ended the Governor’s planned raid of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) fund, allowing the full $8.5 million raised by the program to fund conservation efforts as intended by law.

The big thing now is, will the House except the Senate version, and pass a good budget? The choices are: pass as is, or vote no and then request a Committee of Conference (CofC). I’m betting that House votes for CofC to try and get their big spender items put back in it.

As the Senate Finance Committee Chair, Senator Chuck Morse leads the way, creating this Senate version. “Thank You, and well done, Senator Morse”.

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