One of the first orders of business when the NH House of Representatives next meets in Session will be to vote on a State Budget. Republicans hold a small majority in the House – 212 Republicans to 186 Democrats – and the Speaker will need to appease opposing factions within his own party to hold his slim majority together. In Kevin Landrigan’s column today (“State House Dome,” New Hampshire Sunday News), the reporter quoted Governor Sununu as saying, “I think the whole budget process in the House has gotten off track frankly…” though the Governor sounds hopeful that changes in the budget bill can be made once the legislation crosses over to the Senate: “The whole process has gotten a little bit off the rails, but not any way that bothers us too much,” Sununu said.
At this time, the bill includes controversial policy changes that are not purely financial. For example, one amendment would rescind the Governor’s State of Emergency relative to COVID-19. Another would force the closure of clinics that provide critical services like STD treatment, cancer screenings, birth control, and reproductive health services by placing arbitrary requirements on a clinic’s physical structures. And a third amendment would incorporate the provisions of HB544, a bill that defines and prohibits the discussion of certain concepts related to sex and race in state contracts, grants, and training programs and would punish state institutions and those receiving state funds for engaging in such discussions.
As for the dollars-and-cents impact of the budget, here are some of the details that may be included in the proposed state budget:
- 314 staff positions cut from the Department of Health and Human Services, including at least 22 Child Protective Services workers;
- A Health and Human Services budget that is $159 million lower than the amount proposed by the Governor;
- Funding removed for 50 positions at the Department of Safety (in the Division of Motor Vehicles and the forensic lab);
- 21 law enforcement officers eliminated effective January 1, 2022;
- A reduction in funding for the Governor’s Scholarship Fund by $3 million;
- Applying available school funding evenly across the state, rather than directing funding to school districts and communities with the most need;
- Eliminating the Governor’s proposed $30 million school infrastructure fund.
The NH House of Representatives will meet in Session on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, April 7 – 9, beginning at 9 am each day. Session days are expected to last until 6 or 7 pm. The House will be meeting at the NH Sportsflex facility at 68 Technology Drive in Bedford, NH as that facility can provide better social distancing than the Statehouse Chambers could provide.
Members of the Finance Committee will continue to work on language in the budget bills in the days remaining prior to the start of the next House Session.
On Monday, April 5th at 1:00 pm, the House Finance Committee will provide a briefing on the budget for House members and the general public. Members of the public may attend using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=MvMW6Lf-ltw