House Finance Committee Poised to Reduce Governor’s General & Education Fund Budget by Over $200 Million
On Thursday afternoon, the three divisions of the House Finance Committee largely completed their respective considerations of Governor Hassan’s proposed FY 2016-2017 budget. When the full Finance Committee reconvenes early next week to consolidate and to act upon the divisions’ recommendations, the end result will likely be a reduction in General and Education Fund expenditures of more than $200 million relative to the levels found in the Governor’s budget.
While additional details may become available before the Finance Committee next meets, the documents below, prepared and distributed by the Legislative Budget Assistant’s Office, suggest that:
- Division I, which has responsibility for entities ranging from the State Treasury to the legislative branch, backs General Fund reductions, relative to the Governor’s proposed amounts, totaling approximately $39 million over the FY 2016-2017 biennium. Among the principal recommendations put forward by the division is a freeze in rooms and meals tax distributions to cities and towns at FY 2015 levels, an $11.5 million reduction in General Fund expenditures compared to the version of the budget backed by Governor Hassan. (See the chart below for greater detail.)
- Division II, which is charged with developing budgets for education and transportation, supports lowering General and Education Fund spending by $36 million over the next two years when compared to the provisions of Governor Hassan’s plan. In particular, the division has recommended reducing appropriations for the University System of New Hampshire by $13.4 million, for the Community College System of New Hampshire by $5.2 million, and for education aid to local school districts by $46.7 million. (All amounts are for the biennium as a whole and relative to the Governor’s proposed budget; the chart below provides greater detail.)
- Division III, which crafts those parts of the budget concerning health and human services, seeks changes to Governor Hassan’s budget totaling approximately $142 million for FY 2016-2017. As the chart below indicates, through Wednesday, the division had supported reductions in General Fund expenditures summing to $170.9 million. However, on Thursday, the division reconsidered several prior decisions, most notably reversing course on amendments that would have kept the Medicaid Enhancement Tax Rate at 5.5 percent, rather than allowing it to fall to 5.4 percent as scheduled, and that would have reduced uncompensated care payments to non-critical access hospitals. Such amendments likely would have jeopardized the recent legal settlement with hospitals across the state; their removal on Thursday essentially restores $37.5 million in General Fund expenditures over the biennium. Similarly, Division III on Thursday struck amendments agreed to earlier in the week that would have raised the rate of the Nursing Facility Quality Assessment to 6.0 percent and that would have increased health facility license fees; those actions had the effect of restoring close to $4 million in General Funds to the budget. Nevertheless, Division III also approved several other changes to the Governor’s budget plan on Thursday, such as consolidating district offices within the Department of Health and Human Services and delaying the opening of a 10 bed crisis unit at New Hampshire hospital, that, when taken together, are expected to lower General Fund Expenditures by another $7.9 million over the biennium. (For more details on DHHS cuts, see NHFPI’s March 16 blog post.)
Of note, the summary above excludes the impact of the divisions’ recommendations on parts of the budget outside of the General and Education Funds, such as the impact of such recommendations on the amount of federal funds New Hampshire will receive in the next two years or actions the Finance Committee has taken with regard to the state’s Highway Fund. As has been widely reported, the Finance Committee has approved changes to the Governor’s budget that would reduce Highway Fund expenditures by $88 million in FY 2016-2017.