Fulfilling her commitment to make the fiscally responsible decisions needed to encourage innovative economic growth, without an income or sales tax, Governor Maggie Hassan today presented her FY 2014/2015 balanced budget proposal before a joint session of the state legislature.
In her budget address, Governor Hassan outlined her fiscally responsible, balanced budget plan that focuses on innovation, economic growth and creating good jobs that can support a strong middle class.
"New Hampshire stands at the threshold of a bright new future. We are as well positioned as any state to lead the country in innovative economic growth that will lift all of our people and define the 21st century," said Governor Hassan. "But we cannot sit back and wait for the innovation economy to develop. We must lead the way."
"Now is the time for New Hampshire to choose our own path forward, to build the foundation for a stronger, more innovative economic future that harnesses the greatness of our people and allows all of our citizens to succeed," Governor Hassan said. "Today I present to you a balanced budget -- with no income or sales tax - that is fiscally responsible and focused on innovation, economic growth, and creating good jobs to support a strong middle class."
In developing her plan, the Governor made the fiscally responsible decisions needed to balance the budget, cutting agency general fund spending requests by more than $500 million dollars and keeping general fund spending in FY 14 seven percent below FY 08. The Governor's budget also includes conservative projections, based on the work of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Panel, for baseline revenue growth of only 2.0 percent in the first year of the biennium and 1.9 percent in the second.
"Slow revenue growth made the task of balancing the budget more difficult," Governor Hassan said. "But by making tough, fiscally responsible choices, and by encouraging new innovations to make government more efficient, we have been able to balance the budget while making critical investments in public safety, higher education, economic development, and health care."
Governor Hassan's budget proposal moves forward with her Innovate NH jobs plan, including doubling the R&D tax credit for businesses, providing technical assistance to help businesses grow and create jobs, and restoring 90 percent cuts made to the public university system and fully restoring the community college systems - in exchange the leadership of both systems said they will present plans for freezing tuition for two years.
"New Hampshire will not be able to help these businesses grow or attract new companies if we do not demonstrate that we are serious about building the skilled, educated workforce that businesses need to compete. That's why our budget substantially restores the cuts made to our community college and university systems," Governor Hassan said.
The Governor's budget proposal also seeks to keep our communities strong and our people healthy, productive and safe. To provide access to quality, affordable health care for more New Hampshire families, the budget proposal accepts the $2.5 billion available under the federal Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid, which an independent study by The Lewin Group concludes will create an estimated 700 jobs and save Granite Staters more than $92 million. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for the first three years, and at least 90 percent in future years
"As both Democratic and Republican governors around the nation have said, it's a good deal, one that will, among other things, allow us to save money in existing state programs, while increasing state revenues," Hassan said.
Governor Hassan's budget also significantly addresses New Hampshire's strained mental health system, providing resources to encourage more care in communities and reduce the number of people waiting in emergency rooms.
"It is time to resume our efforts to repair our mental health system," Governor Hassan said. "We must phase in changes with a systematic approach that will strengthen all aspects of mental health care in our state and move us toward more community-based care."
Her budget plan expands acute care beds, adds a new designated receiving facility, adds community residence beds, provides subsidies for housing and support services, adds 10 Assertive Community Treatment Teams to assist people in crisis, and increases other community support services.
In addition, her plan also focuses on public safety, putting 15 additional state troopers on the road, filling vacancies in the attorney general's office, funding drug task force teams, beginning to restore the Children in Need of Services Program, and providing capital budget dollars to build a new women's prison.
In her proposal, the Governor also called for innovation in state government to modernize state government and save taxpayer dollars. The Governor will create a commission, bringing people together from both the public and private sectors, to determine how to improve services, and her budget creates the Office of Innovation and Efficiency to implement recommendations.
"Together, these steps will help us increase efficiency and re-position state government for the future," said Governor Hassan.
In addition to innovation and efficiencies, the Governor's proposal makes fiscally responsible decisions to balance the budget, including restoring auditors at the Department of Revenue, increasing the cigarette tax, and further delaying tax changes that were un-paid-for in the last budget. The Governor's plan also includes the licensing fee from one high-end casino in order to fund New Hampshire's priorities, such as freezing higher education tuition and improving mental health services.
"I know we won't agree on everything, and I am ready to work with you develop a final budget plan. But let me be clear, we must end this process with a balanced budget, and I will veto anything else," said Governor Hassan. "I believe the approach that we have taken puts our state on the right path and will help set the foundation to build a more innovative economy. An economy with more good jobs that can support a growing middle class. And an economy where all of our citizens can share in our success and prosperity."
In conclusion, Governor Hassan said, "I am ready to roll up my sleeves and work with you, because we have the opportunity and the capacity to build a bright economic future for our people. We must lead the way and work together to build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire."