Legislative Update – April 5, 2019
The House met in session Thursday. The House Finance Committee voted to send a $13.4 billion biennial budget to the floor for a vote next week. The House version adds about $300 million to Governor Chris Sununu’s request.
Within the additional funding that the House budget contains is $164 million in aid to education, paid for by way of a new 5% capital gains tax. The item was approved on party line vote, with Republicans objecting to the tax. School building aid would be boosted by about $17 million for several new building projects. Funding for the state’s 10-Year Mental Health Plan includes money for transitional housing, early intervention and a mobile crisis team for children and youth. The House also voted to include a sports betting proposal in the budget.
Out at First
Several of Governor Sununu’s initial budget proposals were out at first base but are likely to reappear on the budget base paths as negotiations round third and head for home in June. As expected, House members replaced Governor Sununu’s plan for a voluntary paid family and medical leave program with their own, which is mandatory and relies on payroll deductions and is similar to the Senate version. The budget also freezes several business tax cuts that were due to take place next year. The House did not include several million dollars in surplus spending on local infrastructure projects the Governor had wanted, saying the requests should have been included in the capital budget process. House Finance also reduced the $15 million Governor Sununu had wanted to put into the Rainy Day Fund to $5 million, prioritizing other options for the money.
No vacancy for now
Despite the robust applause at January’s Inaugural Address, the House Finance Committee this week voted not to include in their budget Governor Sununu’s plan to spend $26 million for a new freestanding secure psychiatric unit. Finance Committee leaders said the amount is too much to commit when they were given no details and when there is no chosen site. They said, however, that they do want more beds and will let the Senate deal with the proposal. Governor Sununu expressed dismay at the House action.
Add two bucks for a room at the inn
A bill that would allow communities to charge a two dollar per night fee for rental rooms is heading to the Senate following a second thumbs-up vote from the House. The legislation has the support of the NH Municipal Association and cities and towns that say they face increased municipal costs associated with tourism. The bill has opposition from the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association and various individual hotels and resorts.
The Senate and House will both be in session next Thursday, April 11, to vote on legislation before the budget Crossover bell tolls at the end of the day.