Republican budget writers in the New Hampshire House are prepared to remove $88 million from the proposed budget of the N.H. Department of Transportation, cuts Gov. Maggie Hassan described as “draconian.”
The House Finance Committee proposed the reduction in NH DOT’s spending as part of its consideration of the governor’s proposed two-year budget of about $11.6 billion.
Highway officials warned that such a cutback would mean massive layoffs of nearly 700 employees and the gutting of highway and bridge repair and maintenance projects throughout the state.
“These draconian cuts to the Department of Transportation would abdicate the state’s responsibility for maintaining safe roads and bridges and downshift costs onto local communities, inevitably leading to higher property taxes,” Hassan said in a statement.
“This fiscally irresponsible bill would have an enormous cost for our state, undermining our efforts to keep our highways and bridges open and safe for the families, commuters, visitors and businesses that drive our economic growth.”
The committee was prepared to vote on the cuts late last week, but backed off as Republican members gauged whether to increase the gasoline tax again as a way to offset some of the budget cuts. The committee has already rejected the governor’s proposal to increase the motor vehicle registration fee.
“We have to come up with a fix. We can’t keep kicking this stuff down the road,” said Rep. Joseph Pitre, R-Farmington, one of the committee members who support the cuts to the DOT. See a Concord Monitor story here.
In a letter to the committee, Deputy Highway Commissioner Patrick McKenna said if they make the cut, they might as well "change the name of the department because it will no longer be a Department of Transportation." See a WMUR report here.
The push and pull over the two-year budget between Hassan and Republicans who control both the House and the Senate was evident again this week in more than just the DOT cuts.
The Senate showed its support for reducing the business profits tax (SB 1) and the business enterprise tax (SB 2).
“To ignore the fact that we have an uncompetitive corporate tax rate is nothing worse than the most myopic short sightedness that we could have,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley. See an NHPR story here.
The Department of Revenue estimates these reductions would create a $130 million shortfall in the budget.
“These two bills would create even deeper holes in this and future budgets, negatively impacting our ability to invest in the shared priorities that are critical to the success of our people, businesses and economy. Further eroding the revenue sources that do exist is irresponsible and will lead to further reductions,” said Hassan.
A bizarre story out of Concord involved the efforts of a group of fourth graders from Hampton Falls to get the Legislature to designate the Red-Tailed Hawk as the official raptor of New Hampshire.
That effort failed, and it was greeted with some harsh language from some legislators. For example, there’s this from Rep. Warren Groen, R-Rochester: "It grasps them with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."
Offending lawmakers drew the criticism of Gov. Hassan and House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who is demanding an apology from Groen. See a WMUR story here.
The Donald in New Hampshire
Real estate mogul Donald Trump was in New Hampshire and this time he’s not kidding about taking a serious run at the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
He’s delayed production of his reality series “Celebrity Apprentice” and he’s formed an exploratory committee. At a house party in Amherst Thursday he said: “People are always saying, is he going to run? Is he going to run? You know I have a great television show, I do have a great life, I have a business that I love, but the country is going to hell. We have people who don’t know what they are doing in Washington. Honestly we are lead by a bunch of fools and that needs to stop." See an NHPR story here.
As always, we’ve got some good discussion over on Facebook. Check it out, and we’ll see you next week.