New Hampshire lawmakers ended hard-fought budget deliberations on June 22 and passed a two-year $17.7 billion budget along party lines. During House budget deliberations, Republicans faced opposition in their own party coming from the newly formed Freedom Caucus. The result was the Republican-dominated House failed to produce a budget, which hadn’t happened in several decades. The Republican House and Senate eventually overcame the objections of conservative factions, including the House Republican Alliance and the Freedom Caucus. The final budget represents an increase in overall spending of 4.1% with cuts in the business tax, elimination of the electricity consumption tax and new mobile scratch tickets, all of which Republicans say will balance the budget.
- Cuts the business profits tax from 8.2% to 7.5% for business with more than $50,000 in receipts
- Cuts the business enterprise tax which is applied to wages, interest and dividends, lowering the rate from 0.72% to 0.5 %
- Invests in mental health and child protection services, including $22.6 million and 60 new beds for community treatment options, and creates a fourth rapid response mobile crisis unit to divert hospitalizations for mental health issues.
- Eliminates the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) and creates two separate agencies; the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which will oversee two divisions; Parks and Recreation and Forests and Lands, and, the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, which will oversee the current Economic Development and Travel and Tourism Divisions
- Creates the first youth drug treatment center in New Hampshire; doubles the Alcohol Fund, adding $7 million for treatment and recovery services over the next two years; and establishes a $4.5 million drug interdiction program to bring together federal, state and local resources to disrupt the supply chain that brings drugs into the state
- Increases funding by $57 million for the developmentally disabled community to reduce the wait list for services
- Increases funding for roads, bridges and school buildings
- Increases state aid to cities and towns
- Increases funding for charter schools by $15 million.
The budget provides no funding for full-day kindergarten, which has been a priority of Gov. Chris Sununu. However, a Republican-backed bill, SB 191 passed and was signed by the governor to fund full-day kindergarten with proceeds from Keno. Cities and towns must decide on whether to allow Keno.
Legislation Signed Into Law
HB 640 An Act Relative to the Penalties for Possession of Marijuana
Reduces the penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana-infused products by a person age 21 or older from a misdemeanor to a violation. Violators will receive a $100 fine for the first and second offenses instead of a year in prison and a $2,000 fine for a third offense.
SB 12 An Act Repealing the Licensing Requirement for Carrying a Concealed Pistol or Revolver
Increases the length of time that a license is valid to carry a pistol or revolver. Allows a person to carry a loaded, concealed pistol or revolver without a license unless such person is otherwise prohibited by New Hampshire statute; requires the director of the division of state police to negotiate and enter into agreements with other jurisdictions to recognize in those jurisdictions the validity of the license to carry issued in this state; and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver.
Voting, Principal Residence
SB 3 An Act Relative to Domicile for Purposes of Voting
In order to vote, someone would have to prove that the address they are providing as a domicile is “the principal or primary home … in which habitation is fixed and to which a person, whenever he or she is temporarily absent, has the intention of returning after a departure or absence.”
Legislation That Failed
Union, Collective Bargaining
SB 11 An Act Prohibiting Collective Bargaining Agreements That Require Employees to Join or Contribute to a Union
Prohibits collective-bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union. No person shall be required, as a condition of employment, to resign or refrain from membership in a labor organization, or become or remain a member of a labor organization or pay dues, fees, assessments or other charges to a labor organization.
Common Core Standards
HB 207 An Act Prohibiting the Implementation of Common Core in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
Prohibits the department of education and the state board of education from requiring any school or school district to implement the common core standards
K-12 Education Funding
The FY18 budget provides additional per-pupil aid to charter public schools of $625 per pupil; provides $45 million in special education aid; $14.8 million in career and technical education tuition and transportation aid; establishes the dual- and concurrent-enrollment program, which will provide up to $250 per STEM-related course at a public schools for robotics teams.
The budget includes $10 million in new student scholarship programs over the next two years, and provides grants to schools that encourage student engagement in the STEM science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The budget upgrades and rehabilitates the Plymouth and Rochester Career Technical Schools to provide workforce-ready students by age 18.
Higher Education Funding, Tuition
The University System of New Hampshire was flat-funded at $81 million for each of the two years of the biennium. The budget signed into law also provides for $3 million in capital improvements at Plymouth State University and $10 million for the Governor’s Scholarship Program.
USNH Chancellor Todd Leach in his budget request to the governor sought $88.5 million for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which represents a 12.5% increase over the two-year cycle. In return, Leach offered to freeze in-state tuition for two years and offer free tuition for all valedictorians and salutatorian graduates from New Hampshire high schools who apply to a USNH institution.
The Community College System of New Hampshire faired better in the budget with an increase in funding for the system of $6 million or an overall increase of 7% in the two-year budget. An additional $10 million was included for the system’s capital budget.
Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures. Visit here for summaries of the legislative sessions in other New England states.