Bipartisan budget moves state forward

It sets the foundation for a more innovative economic future

Two years ago, a budget was passed that undermined the future of our economy and our people. It cut higher education funding in half, eliminated funds for critical services for the most vulnerable citizens, took state troopers off the roads, hurt our ability to protect our natural resources and made it harder for people and businesses to succeed and thrive.

With the bipartisan, fiscally responsible balanced budget that I have now signed into law, we have begun to reverse much of that damage and set the foundation for a more innovative economic future.

After the deep cuts and divisive ideology of the last legislature, we came together, Democrats and Republicans alike, to develop a fiscally responsible budget that puts New Hampshire back on track.

The budget includes many provisions outlined in my Innovate NH jobs plan in order to support growing businesses. It significantly restores funding for the University and Community College systems in exchange for freezing in-state tuition and it increases aid for scholarships at both public and private colleges and universities. And the budget strengthens economic development activities, increases travel and tourism promotion and improves international trade assistance.

These investments will help New Hampshire build the strongest workforce in the nation and attract and grow innovative businesses with good jobs that can support a strong middle class.

Our economic success and ability to seize the promise of innovation also depend on our efforts to maintain our high quality of life. Our bipartisan budget makes significant progress on the priorities that are critical for improving the health and wellbeing of our people and communities, helping to keep New Hampshire one of the safest, healthiest and most livable states in the nation.

It allows the state to move forward with implementing its long-delayed 10-year mental health plan, funds the waitlist for services for people with developmental disabilities, restores the Children in Need of Services program, fully funds the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and increases aid to cities and towns.

The budget also strengthens public safety by adding additional state troopers, maintaining drug- task-force teams, and funding the Cold Case Unit.

In addition, the capital budget funds numerous job-creating projects, continues the state’s Business One-Stop efforts and invests in career and technology education centers. It also provides funding to build a long-overdue new women’s prison with facilities and programs that can help individuals safely move back into society when they have served their sentences.

Like all budgets, this agreement required compromise and difficult decisions. Though a proposed back-of-the-budget reduction to state employees was cut in half, it still will require careful management. I will work closely with state agencies to minimize the impact on positions in order to protect the hard-working employees who have already sacrificed greatly after five straight years of cuts.

The budget also includes a compromise path forward on Medicaid expansion through an expedited study commission that will issue a report by Oct. 15.

But the overwhelming, bipartisan support for the priorities in this budget – job creation, public safety, education, the care of our most vulnerable citizens and the preservation of our natural resources – demonstrates that our shared values as Granite Staters are far more significant than our differences.

Maggie Hassan is governor of New Hampshire.

Categories: Opinion