Last November, New Hampshire voted in a new Democratic House, a new Democratic governor and Republican Senate. Voters sent us to Concord to put aside ideological agendas and work together to restore investments in our communities and to solve the problems facing our state. The House, along with Gov. Maggie Hassan and the state Senate, accomplished this goal by passing the first truly bipartisan budget in decades.
While many will jump at the chance to take credit for this budget compromise, this is not a Republican budget or a Democratic budget; it is a New Hampshire budget. Beginning with the governor’s initial proposal in February, all sides worked hard to address the challenges our state faced in the aftermath of the last budget that slashed funding for higher education and social services.
The House agreed with most of the governor’s proposed budget and we found common ground with the Senate version, which, with the aid of additional revenue, funded many things that the House supported but did not have sufficient revenue for at the time. We didn’t agree with all of the Senate’s choices, but our agreements far outweighed our disagreements as we sat down to negotiate the final compromise.
The two most significant areas of contention were a $50 million “back of the budget” cut to the state work force and the omission of Medicaid expansion in the Senate budget. The Republican Senate was miles apart from the position of the Democratic House and Gov. Hassan on both these issues when we initially started negotiating. We felt that the “back of the budget” cut was a glaring example of ideology trumping common sense government. Rather than identify areas that should be cut, Senate budget writers chose to fund programs on one side of the page and offset that with debilitating cuts on the backside. During negotiations they were asked to defer those cuts to the second year of the biennium, reduced by any revenue surplus beyond their own projections. This would further allow the governor and agency heads to better plan and execute re-organization and implementation of these deep cuts. The Senate refused, making harsh statements about labor (New Hampshire working men and women) needing to feel the pain. But, through negotiations, the House was able to reduce the cut by half.