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As House Weighs Options, The Senate Moves On Sununu Spending Priorities

Hannah McCarthy/NHPR


When Governor Sununu unveiled his $12 billion state budget last month he stressed some priorities: full-day kindergarten, money to hire more state troopers, and a fund to help cities and towns pay for road and school projects.

All the ideas remain under discussion, but their chances of making it into the house’s budget plan, at least as the Governor envisioned them, is in doubt, which that may explain why Sununu seems to be working another avenue to get what he wants, the state senate.

Governor Sununu keeps a pretty brisk public schedule, but it’s rare to see him making brisk pitches for specific pieces of legislation. 

“Absolutely great so see so many folks here today. What we have is obviously a tough travel day. I think if anything, it  highlights the fact of just how important of an issue this is.”

That was Sununu the morning after Tuesday’s big snowstorm.  He and senate lawmakers were up doing their best to ensure easy transit for a senate proposal to fund the 15 state troopers, which he also called for in his budget. By afternoon, the senate finance committee had given the bill its unanimous blessing and $4.5 million to pay for it. The senate’s decision came quick. The house, at least according to its top budget writer, Neal Kurk, has yet make any from any real decisions.

“That will start taking place Monday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week, Thursday being a session day, all of the divisions will be making their decisions.”

But that’s not to say, budget writers in the house aren’t tipping their hands.  For one they are forecasting lower revenue --$59 million less. And expressing plenty of doubt about some of the Governors wish list. 

Well the problem with this is we don’t know how much is in this fund.

Do we?

That’s House republican Steve Vaillancourt, assessing the governor’s infrastructure fund – Sununu’s plan to provide millions in aid to local road and school building projects -- with fellow republican Ken Weyler:

"And According to the latest revenue figures I don’t think there would be any there."

              And Democrat Marjorie Smith:

"I don’t think they’ll be any."

The same GOP-led budget panel has also been skeptical about the Governor’s  plans for kindergarten. The house’s top budget writer, Neal Kurk, rightly cautions, it's early to read too much into the house’s budget pirouettes. The senate almost always has the benefit of more accurate – and typically – higher revenue forecasts, which may allow things taken out now to be reinserted later in the spring. But Kurk adds he expects some of the governor’s pet priorities to stay in the house budget only as tokens.

“One of the things we’ve done in the past in these situations is to put a governors program in but at a dollar, because this is a six step dance and we are at step 3.”

But while the Governor isn’t calling the tune in the house, for now he seems more in step with the senate. Budget writers there have already moved a tweaked version of the governor infrastructure plan. Here’s Senate President Chuck Morse on Wednesday:

“The senate is basically taking a position and the governor agrees with me, I certainly ran it by him before I filed it, and I filed this bill a long time ago.”

The senate has also has its own version of full day kindergarten, different from the governor’s but consistent with his political goal. 

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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