The New Hampshire House has passed its version of the state budget, a $13.6 billion dollar spending plan that Republicans call a prudent response to the pandemic and which Democrats say will harm the vulnerable.
This plan passed along party lines, and includes many policies dear to conservatives. That includes a range of tax cuts: to state business taxes, and the tax on rooms and means. The House budget also orders state health officials to find $50 million in unspecified savings over the next two years.
Representative Ken Weyler, who leads the House Finance Committee, told fellow lawmakers Wednesday that the budget was crafted for this moment.
“It was balanced with the money the Ways and Means Committee gave to us,” Weyler said. “It reflects the difficult times we are in. It reduces the total of the present budget, and it does not add any new taxes.”
Democrats took a different view, criticizing – among other things - the elimination of more than 200 vacant jobs in the Department of Health and Human Services.
"The next state budget could, could help to build an equitable and inclusive and sustainable recovery, but HB 1 as amended does not do that,” said Manchester Rep. Mary Heath.
Republicans said spending growth on human services was unsustainable and said tax cuts would help businesses and boost the economy.
GOP leaders also larded many non-spending items into the budget, including limits on executive branch emergency powers and a ban on allowing tax dollars to flow to entities that teach that race or sex makes people inherently oppressive or victimized. The stated goal was to ensure the budget would get enough support within the Republican caucus.
The approach, which Gov. Chris Sununu criticized as “off the rails,”’ appears to have worked. The budget now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to see significant changes.