Senate Finance Chair: N.H. Budget Must Address Priorities, But Be Within State's Means
The state Senate began work Monday on crafting its version of the next two year state budget.
This comes after House lawmakers failed to pass their proposed $11.9 billion spending plan last week. It’s the first time in modern political history the House hasn’t passed a budget.
Senate Finance Chair Gary Daniels, a Milford Republican, spoke to NHPR's Morning Edition about the process moving forward.
I wanted to start by getting your reaction to what we saw in the House last week. How surprised were you House lawmakers couldn’t come to consensus on a budget and how does this affect the Senate’s work?
The fact that they didn’t come to an agreement…I guess it’s unique. It’s not something that we’ve seen in the time that I’ve been here. But if you understand putting the budget together, it’s not an easy thing. And I expected among 400 people there would be a variety of opinions.
As far as my job, we’re going to continue as we do in the normal process. We’ll start Monday afternoon my amending a couple House bills to make the House bills 1 and 2. We’ll start the agency presentations. We’re going to start with the governor’s budget. We figured that was the best place to start considering the House has no position on it. My intent to just to work with the House members on Finance and extract from them all the work they had done because they did a lot of work on the budget.
As you start this process, what do you see as the Senate’s priorities?
I don’t know yet. I think we need to live within our means. I think that we will do that. We will take into consideration the governor’s priorities, the priorities of the House, and we will have our own. We haven’t met to discuss what those priorities are, but certainly taking care of things that are constitutionally required or contractually required or court-ordered required are things that will certainly be at the top. I think the ongoing support for law enforcement and the opioid issue is another thing that we’ll look at. But education is another one of those key things that is going to contribute to making New Hampshire a better place to do business, a better place to live.
Unlike the House, the Senate has embraced Sununu’s plan for targeted funding for full-day kindergarten. How likely is it now that initiative becomes reality?
I believe that’s being done outside of the budget. The Senate did pass a bill last week regarding kindergarten, so that issue is now before the House.
Do you expect additional business tax cuts to be part of the budget conversation?
I think considering the history on the positive effect that we’ve had over the last two years by cutting the business taxes, I think we will continue to work to make our business environment competitive with our surrounding states.
There was division in the House over setting aside $50 million in property tax relief back that would have gone back to communities. Historically the Senate has better revenue numbers to work with – if that’s the case, how do you see the Senate using those additional funds?
I think that’s up for discussion. We really need to listen to the department presentations to determine what the priorities are among those, where the money needs to be spent. We need to figure out where the revenue is, then just work off a priority list.
How open will the Senate be to the House Freedom Caucus or any input from the House side?
I think we’re open to receiving input from anyone. We’re going to start Monday by listening to members of House Finance, those who chaired the committee and the divisions along the way, and we’ll be doing presentations all month. We will receive input from anyone else, as well. I think that's what makes the process work. It shouldn’t be done in seclusion. We should be open to listening to the ideas of all and taking those ideas into consideration. Whether they work or don’t work in the plan the Senate comes out with is yet to be determined.