Granite State lawmakers on June 26 approved a $10.7 billion two-year budget with bipartisan support. Members of the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, unanimously supported the budget, while more than 300 of the 400-member Democrat-controlled House approved the spending package.
Bipartisan agreement on the two-year plan was bolstered by growth in March and April tax revenues, which generated approximately $200 million in new revenue.
First-term Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan based her budget in part on approval of a casino, which would generate $80 million in license fees. However, legislators led by Democratic Speaker of the House, Teri Norelli, opted out of the casino bill. The House rejected the plan by a vote of 199-164.
As part of a budget compromise, Hassan and Democratic lawmakers agreed to establish a commission to study the expansion of Medicaid to include 49,000 poor adults. Under the Affordable Care Act, states may choose to expand Medicaid in their states. Hassan and Democratic lawmakers favored expanding Medicaid as part of the budget, but Republicans were opposed. The commission has until Oct. 15 to make a recommendation regarding Medicaid expansion.
- Restores funding and rebuilds Children in Need of Services program (CHINS), which addresses at-risk youth.
- Approves funding of $38 million for construction of a new women’s prison in Concord to provide the same level of safety and programs offered as those offered at the men’s correctional facilities.
- Provides funding for web-based initiatives and improved technology including a program called Business One-Stop, which would aggregate services online for business owners, and another program that would create a statewide database of all professional license-holders.
- Provides funding for the New Hampshire Department of Education’s Career and Technical Centers and “Sub Centers, which serve high school students.
- Doubles the funding for the state’s research & development tax credit and extends it permanently.
New Hampshire lawmakers:
- Approved establishment of a state energy council to develop a 10-year energy strategy for the state taking into consideration, the state’s supply and demand for energy needs, access to natural gas, role in the regional electricity market, and role of efficiency and other issues related to the energy mix.
- Approved “Pathway to Work” program intended to encourage unemployed workers to become entrepreneurs working with the state’s Small Business Development Center to access entrepreneurial training, business counseling and technical assistance.
- Approved marijuana for medical use.
For the first time in 25 years, the trustees of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) voted to freeze tuition at the current level after legislators provided more state aid to the system. In the previous budget, lawmakers cut funding to the system by 50%, which resulted in tuition increases of 9% and 6%. For the new biennium, the USNH will receive $153 million. Hassan proposed at the outset of budget discussions freezing tuition pending an increase in state appropriations to the system. The budget also increases aid for scholarships at public and private colleges and universities.
Trustees for the Community College System of New Hampshire voted to freeze tuition in exchange for increased funding for the system in the FY14-15 budget. Funding for the community colleges increased to $40 million.
The budget also includes $8 million for USNH capital projects, with an additional $13 million designated for the community college system.
Carolyn Morwick handles government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.