Following his attendance at a meeting with Gov. Sununu, The Sentinel reported “George Hansel blamed the (state budget) impasse more broadly on partisan politics.” One can’t trivialize the impasse simply on politics; that’s swallowing the governor’s line. The difference is not just partisan politics, it’s pocketbook economics.
The Legislature’s two-year budget provides real tax relief, $200 million worth, to towns and school districts racked by state education-funding reductions and broken promises for municipal aid. This amounts to $16 million more for Cheshire County — including $4.5 million for Keene, $2.4 million for Swanzey, $1.9 million for Winchester, and $1.8 million for Hinsdale — over two years.
To provide these increases in municipal aid and education funding — while addressing crises facing our state on mental health, child protection and substance-use disorders — the Legislature’s budget stabilized business tax rates at the level paid in 2019. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed our budget proposal, pushing instead for a third round of business tax cuts, when New Hampshire already has the lowest business taxes in all of New England.
New Hampshire has a budget surplus that both the governor and Legislature proposed to allocate in their budgets. The House and Senate believe it’s the property taxpayers’ turn to reap the benefits — including businesses that own property. That’s why we proposed to return funds to towns, with higher proportions going to towns with lower property valuations, many of which are in western New Hampshire. I can’t recall a business that testified this year calling for another round of business-tax reductions. Employers want an educated workforce; that’s the economic barrier to growth.
The first school reimbursement for this year occurs Sept. 1, and current law requires a reduction of 4 percent to school stabilization grants. Special education reimbursements will continue at 70 percent of state law requirements. Medicaid provider rates are still frozen, which means New Hampshire will continue to struggle to attract and retain mental health professionals and in-home service workers for adults with developmental disabilities and chronically ill seniors.
Regardless of political party, reducing taxes for the largest common denominator, property taxpayers, and providing adequate funding to address the education, mental health, caregiving and child protection crises in our state should be universally supported.
Gov. Sununu’s budget veto is holding New Hampshire back from making progress on these issues. If you disagree with the governor’s priority, call his office and make your voice heard.
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(This writer, a Democrat, represents District 10 in the N.H. Senate.)