What will be in the NH Senate’s budget?

Some predictions about what senators could produce

On April 11, the New Hampshire House passed their version of the budget. Now it’s the Senate’s turn.

The Senate usually makes some significant changes, thanks in part to rosy revenue updates they get after tax season.

We can predict some of the Senate budget by looking at spending bills the Senate already passed this year, then tabled until the budget comes their way.

Repeats from the House budget

The Senate has already passed several bills that mirror parts of the House budget, so expect those parts to stay. In particular, the Senate has approved:

  • Statewide mandatory family and medical leave insurance
  • Freezing business tax cuts
  • Funding additional election and lobbying law positions under the attorney general
  • Increased funding for child and youth services, including child protection
  • Increased funding for mental health services
  • Untying keno revenues and full-day kindergarten funding, so kindergarten would be funded the same as grades 1 through 12

New forensic psychiatric hospital

At the start of 2019, legislators and the governor seemed to agree over building a new secure psychiatric hospital. However, on April 11, the House scaled that $26 million project back to a $1.2 million planning phase.

On the same day, the Senate passed their own bill to spend the full $26 million. As is customary, the Senate voted to table the bill so it can be included in their work on the budget.

Medicaid provider rates

The Senate also passed (then tabled) Senate Bill 308, a bill that makes various investments in the healthcare workforce. It includes an increase in Medicaid provider rates – 5% across the board next year and another 7% the year after that. The House budget included some rate increases, but SB 308 goes much further.

Sunny day fund

The Senate also passed and tabled a bill to establish a sunny day fund, using $10 million of the budget surplus. The fund would disburse grants for research and development, “including any preliminary funding necessary to obtain grant funding, supporting the infrastructure necessary to address critical gaps in the state’s ability to attract research and development projects, increasing commercialization of new technologies, leveraging federal funds, and supporting business development and expansion.”

Look for this fund in the Senate budget debates.

Sticking points with Sununu

Governor Sununu said he will veto the budget unless the Senate makes significant changes to the House version. In particular, he objects to taxes: a capital gains tax to fund education, the cancellation of business tax cuts, and a tax on employee wages to pay for statewide family and medical leave.

The Senate has yet to vote on a capital gains tax, so it’s possible the Senate will axe that tax to appeal to Sununu.

However, the Senate looks to be very married to the business tax freeze and statewide family and medical leave.

Whatever budget the Senate settles on will still have to go through a conference committee with the House. After that, it needs Sununu’s signature or two-thirds of the House and Senate on board – including at least 34 Republicans in the House and two in the Senate. That means some sort of compromise is inevitable.

Anna Brown is director of research and analysis for Citizens Count, a nonpartisan civic engagement nonprofit. To learn more about these issues and related legislative bills, visit CitizensCount.org.

Categories: Government, Opinion