NH Senate Now in Driver's Seat on State Budget
CONCORD, N.H. – The state Senate is now in the driver's seat with a hearing Monday on the state budget, following last week's failure in the House to come to agreement on a budget bill.
Sen. Dan Feltes of Concord sits on the Senate Finance Committee, meeting Monday afternoon. He says the first order of business is to consider the governor's budget proposal, but that's just the starting point.
Feltes says committee members from both parties will be working to come up with a Senate position on the budget.
"The upshot of this is, we've got to be working for Granite Staters, not just those at the top, not just the Concord lobbyists or special interests,” he states. “We've got to build a budget for everybody, and we've got severe needs. We have needs in terms of education, infrastructure and health care."
The Senate Finance Committee meets at 1 p.m. at the State House (Room 103). Lawmakers have until June 1 to agree on a final version of the budget.
GOP leaders in the New Hampshire House backed a budget plan that would have provided millions of dollars in property tax relief while increasing spending in some areas, but that was too much spending for hard line conservatives.
Phil Sletten, a policy analyst with New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, says the House failure to meet its April 6 budget deadline leaves the Senate very much in charge of the budget process.
"The House doesn't have a budget, and one of the things it means is that it doesn't have the same strength in its bargaining position at the end of the day, after the Senate passes a spending bill for the state," he points out.
Feltes says the prospects for funding full-day kindergarten have increased, because the Senate has historically been more supportive of that idea than the House and there are two options on the table.
"Either the governor's version, or full adequacy for full day kindergarten, which is my preferred version, because we ought to support full-day kindergarten more,” he states. “I think either version is likely to be in the budget. We'll find out which one goes in."