NHDP - ICYMI - Concord Monitor: "My Turn: Election noise obscures truth about bipartisan budget"

Senators Larsen and D'Allesandro Highlight Governor Hassan's Careful Management of Agency Budgets, Call Out Senate GOP for Massively Overspending on Their Own Budget


Key Point: “It is worth noting that as Gov. Hassan was working with state agencies to effectively manage their budgets and beat their savings targets, our Republican colleagues in the Senate actually overspent and missed their own budget targets. [...]

“So the irony is that Republicans were the ones who didn’t respond to their own call to reduce spending: as they were launching attacks against Gov. Hassan’s fiscal leadership and inventing wild – and inaccurate – claims about overspending by government agencies, they were the ones loosening the purse strings. [...]

“But it’s pretty clear that Senate Republicans can’t be taken seriously on the budget right now.”

See here or below for the full Concord Monitor op-ed by Senators Sylvia Larsen and Lou D'Allesandro

Granite Staters know that balancing a budget – whether it’s our family’s budget or the state’s budget – requires making tough choices to protect our priorities while living within our means. That’s what we’ve worked to do at the State House.

Under Gov. Maggie Hassan’s bipartisan leadership, we balanced the budget responsibly, with no income or sales tax. The budget passed unanimously in the Republican-majority Senate and nearly unanimously in the Democratic-majority House.

That’s not something you see too often out of Washington, D.C. – but it happened here under this governor.

It’s a fiscally responsible budget that invests in shared priorities like freezing college tuition, putting more state troopers on the road and revitalizing our state’s economic development efforts.

And it’s a budget that supports the priorities that help innovative businesses create jobs, expand middle-class opportunity and keep our economy moving in the right direction.

While passing a balanced budget every two years is crucial, it is only the first step in ensuring that our state’s finances remain on solid ground. Maintaining that balance requires constant work and attention.

Since we passed the budget, Gov. Hassan has carefully managed state agency expenditures, and she took preemptive action to rein in spending, leading us to end Fiscal Year 2014 with a $20 million surplus. In fact, agencies actually beat their targets for returning funds back to the treasury by $8.5 million.

It is worth noting that as Gov. Hassan was working with state agencies to effectively manage their budgets and beat their savings targets, our Republican colleagues in the Senate actually overspent and missed their own budget targets.

An NH1 investigation found that Senate Republicans “seemed to spend like there was no tomorrow.” They even spent $15,000 on furniture.

So the irony is that Republicans were the ones who didn’t respond to their own call to reduce spending: as they were launching attacks against Gov. Hassan’s fiscal leadership and inventing wild – and inaccurate – claims about overspending by government agencies, they were the ones loosening the purse strings.

We are not surprised to hear partisan attacks as the election approaches. That’s what happens at this time of year. But it’s pretty clear that Senate Republicans can’t be taken seriously on the budget right now.

Going forward, we need to continue to be prudent. As the economy continues to improve, key revenues that indicate economic progress, such as the meals and rooms and real estate transfer taxes, remain strong. However, the last Legislature passed changes to tax laws that went into effect in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2014.

Since those changes went into effect, we have seen business tax and interest-and-dividends tax revenues regularly fall below plan. Even though overall revenues are running slightly ahead of plan for the year, the trend in business and interest-and-dividends revenue could be a sign of challenges ahead.

That’s why we supported Gov. Hassan taking preemptive action last week by sending all state agencies directions to reduce expenditures in their plans for the year ahead. That was the right thing to do.

At the same time, the Legislature will also need to continue to work together across party lines to exercise discretion while focusing on important priorities. Remember, the state is only spending on the bipartisan priorities that have been supported by legislators from both parties, either through our budget, through the Legislative Fiscal Committee or through other laws passed with bipartisan support.

We hope that after the election hoopla is over, the Legislature will go back to doing what we did last year, and work closely with agencies and under the leadership of our governor in a bipartisan way to develop a final plan that ensures a balanced budget for next year. That’s what has helped keep our state on track.

(Sylvia Larsen is a state senator from Concord. Lou D’Allesandro is a state senator from Manchester.)