What you didn’t hear in Sununu’s budget address
Some significant budget items not mentioned in the governor’s budget speech
On Feb. 14, Gov. Chris Sununu presented his two-year budget proposal to the Legislature.
For the most part, his budget address repeated priorities from his inauguration speech: keep business tax cuts on schedule, build a state forensic hospital for patients in prison, invest in healthcare and nursing programs within the university system, and so on.
Sometimes, though, silence speaks louder than words. Here are some significant budget items you didn’t hear about in Sununu’s budget address.
Per-pupil school funding
Sununu’s budget funds specific education initiatives – such as $8.6 million for career and technical education – but he did not propose any major revisions to the statewide school funding formula.
There are many proposals in the NH House and Senate to revise how the state funds education on a per-pupil basis. Depending on which proposal wins favor, the state could be looking at anywhere from $34 million to $1.1 billion in additional school funding each year. One proposal would add funding through a tax on capital gains; another would have property-rich towns pay more to the state. School funding might be another motivation for Democrats to freeze business tax cuts.
Higher education funding
In his speech, the governor highlighted a one-time, $24 million dollar investment in healthcare and nursing programs within the university system, as well as a new $32 million student loan assistance program.
However, when you dig into the budget spreadsheets, the governor gave the University System of New Hampshire the same annual funding as the last four years – $81 million – and granted only a small increase to the community college system.
The governor made some big moves in health care, including aggressive funding for mental health services. However, his budget makes no significant overall change to Medicaid reimbursement rates, which are very low in New Hampshire compared to other states.
Roads and bridges
In his speech, the governor did not address any funding for roads and bridges in the Department of Transportation. The governor’s budget increases DOT funding somewhat, but each year is about $43 million short of what the DOT was hoping for.
The Legislature is considering a 6-cent gas tax increase and a road usage fee to increase transportation funding.
Other funding that didn’t get a shout-out
Gov. Sununu’s budget includes some other funding items he did not mention in his speech.
For example, he set aside an additional $1.6 million each year for marketing by the Division of Travel and Tourism.
He also more than doubled how much the Fish and Game Department gets from the general fund of all tax dollars each year, to roughly $2 million.
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.