Senate Approves Budget Plan, Sends it to Governor

CONCORD – With a 14-10 vote, the Senate sent a budget plan that balances the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years to the governor after the House passed the same plan earlier in the day.

“At the end of the day what you have is a balanced budget that was done in good conscience and in good faith with input from commissioners, lawmakers and citizens across the state,” said Senator Lou D’Allesandro, (D-Manchester) chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s a plan in the best interests of the state.”

The special session legislation addresses an estimated $295 million shortfall for the biennium and includes $270 million in cuts and adjustments that were previously agreed upon in a committee of conference. It adds another $40 million in cuts and adjustments that were agreed upon last week.

The budget plan rejects new taxes such as the estate tax and electric generation tax. The plan also protects cities and towns from losing $15 million in revenues from meals and rooms and state retirement contributions as proposed in earlier budget plans.

“In this deep recession, this plan holds the line on state spending and through aid to cities and towns, helps our property taxpayers,” said Senate President Sylvia Larsen (D-Concord). “At the same time, we preserve out vital social safety net when so many families are struggling.”

It provides for an additional $2.7 million in child care subsidies to help working parents keep their jobs. It also maintains programs to help people facing catastrophic illness, AIDS services as well as maintaining necessary funding for people with developmental disabilities.

The budget cuts almost $95 million from state agency programs and designated funds — either in outright reductions or by requiring agencies to return money to the general fund at the end of each year. This includes reductions of almost $1 million from the Legislative branch budget and $1 million from the Judicial branch.

It restructures some programs, such as closing the Anna Philbrook center to move those children to a separate wing of New Hampshire Hospital.

The budget plan requires the state community college system to pay a little more for the

administrative services it gets from the state. And while it cuts some aid to hospitals, it preserves reimbursement rates to providers that had previously been considered for reduction.

The budget plan would take $3.1 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to help businesses improve their energy efficiency, replacing that money with funds available for the same purpose through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

It draws down funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP by $1.5 million but includes a commitment to look at state lands that may be appropriate for open space preservation, one of LCHIP’s goals.

It takes $5.8 million from the Revenue Stabilization Reserve Account, known as the rainy day fund, to balance 2010 but pays it back and then some in 2011. It includes a creative plan to restructure state debt to save $40 million.

The plan does not include any revenue from expanded gambling but sets up a gaming oversight authority to develop an effective and efficient regulatory structure so lawmakers have the option of issuing licenses starting in 2011.

As promised by House and Senate leaders, the budget bill also repeals the extension of the interest and dividends tax to limited liability companies going forward. A separate vote on that part of the budget package passed 24-0.