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Why Some N.H. House Conservatives May Not Vote For The State Budget

The New Hampshire State House

The fate of the $13.5 billion state budget compromise will depend on the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a slim majority. While GOP leaders see the budget as advancing conservative priorities on taxes, educational choice and abortion, for some other conservatives in the House, the spending proposal remains a non-starter.

Rep. Norm Silber, Republican of Gilford, criticized a paid family leave program championed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

“[The proposal] is a slippery slope towards a state income tax,” Silber said Wednesday.

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He plans to vote against the budget on Thursday, and he’s one of several Republicans who feel the leave program jeopardizes the budget. Republicans in the House had stripped Sununu’s leave plan from the budget, but the Senate restored it.

While Republican votes in the Senate are assured, so the budget is all but certain to pass that chamber Thursday. But in the 400-member House, with Democrats expected to oppose the budget as a bloc, it will just take roughly a dozen "no" votes by House Republicans to doom the proposal.

“The phone is ringing off the hook, we’ve got debates going on online, and in our Signal chats,” libertarian-leaning Rep. Mark Warden of Manchester said. He says he’s still on the fence about backing the budget, after negotiators weakened a provision to curb some of the governor’s authority over states of emergencies.

“The emergency order was my big issue, and I’m very disappointed with what happened there,” Warden said.

From the governor and legislative leaders to right-leaning advocacy groups, those working on behalf of the budget are urging these House members to unite in order to make a historic array of conservative policies law.

“We are asking folks to consider the totality of the circumstances, and look at the budget as a whole,” Greg Moore of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity said. Such arguments may persuade some hesitant lawmakers.

Warden is in his fourth House term, and he’s never opposed a GOP-crafted budget. He says it would be hard not to ultimately back a plan that phases out the interest and dividends tax and fosters school choice.

“I’m probably 90 percent of the way there based on that,” Warden said.

But for others, like Silber, the argument that this budget warrants automatic support may backfire.

“They say we can take it or leave it. Well, guess what? We can leave it,” Silber said.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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