Mario Ratzki Reports From Concord: February 2013

By Mario Ratzki, New Hampshire House

The main event in Concord this week (February 11 to 17) was the unveiling of Governor Hassan's budget for fiscal years 2014-2015. I have a copy of the budget summary and would be glad to lend it to anyone interested.

In this budget, the governor will make some assumptions about revenues; for instance, a raise in the cigarette tax and a windfall from a new casino. The budget is then forwarded to the Ways and Means Committee in the House, where committee members cannot make these assumptions because they do not know whether the bills (cigarette tax increases, casino revenues) will pass the House and the Senate. So the governor's budget at this point is a “wish list,” an approximation of the final product.

Nevertheless, some general highlights:

  • Full restoration of funds for community colleges
  • Partial restoration of funds to the university system
  • Increases in psychiatric beds
  • Partial restoration of children’s programs
  • Expansion of Medicaid ($2.5 billion of federal funds)
  • Full funding of $1.9 billion in aid to local schools
  • Doubling the research and development (R&D) tax credit for businesses
  • $19 million for career and education centers
  • $18 million in additional charter school funding
  • $46 million in building aid for schools
  • $45 million in catastrophic aid for schools
  • Hiring of 10 new state troopers
  • Three new attorneys for the Attorney General’s office

These are just some of the highlights. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect the full funding amount, including new increases in some cases.

So now the real fun begins: a mountain of bills to consider. House bills go to the Senate, and Senate bills to the House in what is aptly called “crossover.”

On a lighter note, I would add that the atmosphere in the House is still congenial, although we killed the “right to work” bill in a pretty much partisan vote. I believe eight Republicans joined Democrats in doing so, but it would have been higher than that if the bill had had any chance of passing. Politics!

Coming soon: casino bills and road toll/gas tax bills. I will keep you posted.

I am always available at 735-5440, or e-mail me at MarioRatzki@nullgmail.com.

My next monthly meeting will be in Danbury on Thursday, March 28, hopefully in conjunction with Senator Forrester and Representative Karrick. If you plan to attend, contact me for confirmation.