Public Policy Update

By Marie Mulroy, Past NHPHA President

Barring any last minute surprises, by the time you read this both the House and the Senate will have convened and voted to pass the State’s 2016-2017 Budget.   Both the Legislature and the Governor reached a compromise agreement on the budget.  Briefly the most important changes are:
  • The compromise budget does not change any funding levels in the original version that was vetoed
  • The agreement would provide the $12 million in General and Education Funds to honor contract with state employees for pay raises.
  • The agreement would reduce business taxes in two stages over the next several years. However, under the terms of the agreement, this second stage of rate reductions would take effect on that date only if General and Education Fund revenue for the FY 2016-2017 biennium exceeds $4.64 million.  
  • The money to extend Medicaid Expansion beyond 2016 is not is not this version.    
It was the business tax cuts and their impact on the economy that was at the epicenter of this budget debate.    Many lawmakers feel that the impact of tax cuts is positive and would bring businesses and jobs to the state.    Others feel that these unproven cuts will have the same effect as what happened to Kansas when they decreased their businesses taxes.   The result of Kansas’ business tax cuts was to decrease their revenues to the point where many needed services are gone and the State’s bond rating has been downgraded twice.  With a safety net in place to keep the State from having drastic revenue drops, we will get to see which side is rightread more   

With New Hampshire already feeling the effects of previous cuts to revenues, what is clear now that this budget process needs to get done differently.    It is imperative that we figure out how to keep vulnerable populations, essential services, small and local businesses, towns and property owners from the extreme political swings that they have been subjected to over the last several budget cycles.   A mother with a disabled child should not have to worry every two years about who is in office to know whether the necessary services will be there to help her child.  Those who finally have health insurance should not have to worry that it will be taken away.    Meals on Wheels should not be threatened.  Food safety should not be jeopardized because there is no staff to do the inspections, and we should not keep sending back federal dollars because an antiquated contract approval system keeps contracts tied up for months on end.  New Hampshire businesses should not be pitted against service organizations and agencies to see who is the winner or loser in these bi-annual budget battles.   

No one wins when we do not have a state budget system that creates continuity and stability.   Businesses need a stable funding system for them to invest in the state’s economy to grow jobs.   Agencies and towns need to know that they can look out greater than 24 months to provide the necessary services to keep the state’s infrastructure stable and its citizens educated and healthy.   We dodged the bullet this time, but the system is broken and will only get worse unless we all work together to get it fixed.    _____________________________________________________________________________________
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