With State House Shut Down, Lawmakers Turn Attention to COVID-19 Budget Impacts | New Hampshire Public Radio

With State House Shut Down, Lawmakers Turn Attention to COVID-19 Budget Impacts

Mar 27, 2020

Credit NHPR

The New Hampshire Legislature has suspended full operations until at least May 4th, but a key panel of lawmakers is planning to meet remotely in two weeks in an effort to start addressing anticipated declines in state revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the Legislature’s Fiscal Committee have told Gov. Chris Sununu they want to help state agencies address pressing financial needs. But even that is proving a challenge, given the changes in government operations since the rise of COVID-19 in the state. Top lawmakers are looking at the logistics of how to restart legislative activity in a closed State House. The challenge is particularly stark when it comes to 400-member New Hampshire House on things like how to manage remote communication. 

And while state officials are focused on the public health implications of the coronavirus pandemic, they’re only starting to come to grips with its effects on state tax receipts.  Many sources of state revenue, including meals-and-rooms taxes, liquor sales and lottery sales, rely on robust spending by out-of-state visitors. The COVID-19 outbreak has largely put an end to that.

Speaking at a press briefing this week, Sununu acknowledged the problem would likely be enormous.

“Revenues are going to be drastically impacted at the state level, and what we need to do is find ways to keep the most vital services moving forward,” Sununu said. “We are going to have to make some cuts one way or another.”

In a letter to Sununu Friday, top Democratic budget writers said they hope to use their April 10 meeting to accept any available COVID-related federal funds, and would schedule further emergency meetings to do so if needed.