We are fast approaching the end of the 2019 legislative session. The final act is that of crafting a budget. In recent days representatives and senators have worked tirelessly to negotiate a budget that each house can live with and that serves the needs of all New Hampshire residents. This is no easy task. There was funding in both the Senate budget and the House budget that was increased, decreased or just plain removed. Nobody got everything they wanted. It’s called compromise.
Of course, the budget does not go into effect unless the governor signs it. This means more compromise. Two priorities for the Democratic majority, paid family leave and a new source of revenue, in the form of a capital gains tax, were removed from the agreed-upon budget. Gov. Sununu had made it clear that either would have resulted in a veto.
Still, this is a budget that reflects progressive values, addresses dramatic shortcomings in services, and begins work on longstanding, seemingly intractable issues such as school funding and astronomical property taxes. It funds remedies to long waits in emergency departments for people in mental health crises and bolsters a broken, underfunded mental health system. It adds positions and programs in DCYF to ensure protection of our state’s most vulnerable children. It starts to reverse a trend of downshifting costs to municipalities and school districts. It begins to address disparities in education funding for property poor towns. This biennial budget gives an estimated additional $40 million to municipalities and $138 million to school districts. All of this aid is skewed to benefit our neediest communities.
Over a two-year period the city of Keene will receive approximately $784,000 in additional municipal aid and the Keene School District will receive an additional $3.7 million.
This budget is not perfect. Neither the House, the Senate, the governor, the Democrats, nor the Republicans got everything they wanted. It is a solid proposal that gives New Hampshire a start in the right direction and a reason to be hopeful about our future. Unfortunately, Gov. Sununu has indicated that he will likely veto it because it curtails further tax cuts for businesses. This is your opportunity to be part of the process. If you support services for the vulnerable, quality public education and property tax relief, call or write immediately and urge the governor to sign this budget into law.
288 Church St.
(This writer, a Democrat, represents Cheshire District 16 in the N.H. House. The letter was also signed by Democratic House members Donovan Fenton, Will Pearson, John Bordenet, Dave Morrill, Dave Meader and Sparky Von Plinsky, all of Keene. This letter was received prior to the governor’s veto of the budget Friday.)