After multiple days of long hours at the State House, lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on the two-year state budget.
But Governor Maggie Hassan last night described the plan as “fiscally irresponsible and unbalanced,” and urged budget writers to go back to the drawing board or she will veto it.
House Finance Chair Neal Kurk says he hopes the governor will understand the political reality.
“This is a Republican legislator House and Senate, with a Democratic Governor, it’s unlikely that over time we are likely to make the changes that she wants," said Kurk, after negotiations wrapped up Wednesday evening.
The proposal so far– more or less – mirrors the Senate’s version by restoring funding for social services such as elderly care, substance abuse, mental health and developmental disabilities, which Kurk says he is “delighted” to do.
“The Republicans in the Senate did what the Republicans in the House would have done if they had the same revenue,” adding that the Ways and Means Committee gave the Senate $118 million more to work with.
But Kurk said he was "disappointed" that they had to rollover $49 million from the current biennium into this budget, but stressed that in past budgets more than $70 million dollars have been rolled over.
The plan also includes the Senate’s business tax cuts, which will result in an estimated $21 million revenue loss over the next biennium. This is a major sticking point for the governor, who says this budget does not account for this potential revenue loss as well as future losses.
"I'm not philosophically opposed to tax cuts but if we are going to make tax cuts for businesses we need to find a way to pay for those tax cuts, and we cannot sacrifice the funding of priorities that are so critical to our people and our businesses and our economy," Hassan said Wednesday after meeting with Democrats at the State House.
House budget writers also agreed to the Senate’s $7.5 million increase in tourism promotion, putting back $1.25 towards the state's community colleges and $4 million for emergency shelters.
It also nearly fully funds the renewable energy fund and restores the state's rainy day fund, which was taken out of the House version.
The only slight deviation from the Senate plan are a $1,000 increase in charter school funding per pupil, and a change to the way education adequacy grants are allocated.
The education grant change, which differs from each chamber's original plan, calls to raise the cap on annual grant increases to 160 percent in 2016 and fully eliminating the cap by the start of the 2017 school year.
This compromise budget, however, does not include a $12 million state employee pay raise or Medicaid expansion, which the Governor had in her budget.
The full committee is expected to vote on the plan at 1 p.m. Thursday, and will likely go to the Senate and House floors next week.
If the Governor chooses the veto the budget, lawmakers will most likely spend the summer reworking it, while government continues to operate on fiscal 2015 appropriations.