Occasion-Line Vote OKs Home Finance Funds Plan, Eliminates Lots of of DHHS Jobs


CONCORD – The House Finance Committee on Monday put the pieces of its budget together, increasing funding for some programs and decreasing funding for others, significantly changing some of the changes Governor Chris Sununu proposed in his two-year budget.

The current House of Representatives budget eliminates hundreds of jobs in the Department of Health and Human Services to save $ 50 million over two years, add $ 11 million to fund university and community college systems, state Cut water purification grants and use $ 100 million General Fund money to replace the same amount of money raised through the nationwide education property tax for a year.

In the course of their work, the House budget clerks slowed the merger process for the New Hampshire University System and New Hampshire Community College System, rearranged the governor’s proposal for a new Department of Energy, and eliminated a student loan program to accomplish that Maintain the state’s low-income student scholarship program and significantly increase funding to prevent millions of dollars from being spent on lowering the cost of nursing homes in the county to property taxpayers.

Although a subcommittee included and refined the governor’s proposed program for paid family and medical leave for government employees, the committee unanimously voted to remove it.

And they cut funding for the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester in the second year of the biennium, saving more than $ 13 million in operating capital but reducing the budget for moving residents to other facilities by $ 2.5 million -Dollar was topped up.

The budget package also included cuts in business tax rates and eliminated a change in business tax apportionment approved two years ago.

The budget plan also contains a number of controversial political issues, such as the prohibition on including “divisive concepts of gender and race in state treaties, grants and training programs” to allow betting on historic horse races, which also require legal approval from emergency states first 21-day statement that essentially bans family planning funding for planned parenting in northern New England and other abortion service providers unless they can physically and financially separate abortion procedures from their other services.

Another provision in the budget would repay fines to companies that failed to follow public health guidelines for the pandemic.

The committee also eliminated money from various areas such as mental health services for military personnel and security and internet projects for schools, and would replace it with federal funds approved in the US bailout plan that provide about $ 1.5 billion from state and local government agencies will.

Most of the House Finance Committee’s budget proposals were bipartisan approved. The committee will meet on Wednesday to vote on the final changes made by the Legislative Budget Assistant and the Legislative Services Office based on the decisions made on Monday. The LBA will also determine the final budget figures.

Sununu proposed an operating budget of $ 13.8 billion, an increase of 5.6 percent from the budget ended June 30, and later suggested additional spending of $ 70 million amid growing government revenues .

In terms of general spending on education funds, Sununu’s proposed budget would spend $ 5.45 billion, a decrease of $ 41 million from the current spending plan.

Initial sales estimates for the next two fiscal years were about $ 70 million below the governor’s, but have since been raised to above the level proposed by the governor in his plan.

Originally, the committee faced scrapping tens of millions of dollars from the governor’s proposal, but rising revenue estimates have softened the cuts.

The governor’s budget would have multiple agencies facing significant layoffs, said Lynne Ober, vice chair of the House Finance Committee, R-Hudson. Three agencies, including the Ministry of Health and Human Services, are “very badly” affected.

Another agency that faced significant layoffs was the Department of Administrative Services, and Ober said their division, Division I, was able to restore 20 jobs to the critical agency that provides centralized services to all government agencies and manages the state’s auto insurance programs, and maintains four of the posts. Eight posts in the information technology department that fill the help desk.

The department released money by reducing the governor’s scholarship program to $ 1.

The 314 job cuts in the Department of Health and Human Services affected the former chairman of the House Finance Committee and now the senior Democrat, Rep. Mary Jane Wallner, D-Concord.

Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, chairman of Division III, which reviews the health and personal services budget, said the division had hundreds of vacancies it couldn’t fill as it worked with the counties and the private sector limited numbers of healthcare workers compete.

He said they should look at the number of people the department had as of March 2020, which is 2,651 compared to the 3,000 approved in the change.

Sununu’s budget did not fund 88 of the 3,226 authorized positions in the department, and the closure of the Sununu center will eliminate an additional 96 positions, bringing the number to 3,042, Edwards said.

He said with 3,000 positions for the department and 350 current vacancies, the agency could fill 88 percent of the positions without hitting the cap.

Edwards said the department believes that priority should be placed on staff working directly with patients, not managers or specialists.

Wallner found that shedding $ 50 million positions over two years will save $ 50 million in matching federal money, reducing it by $ 100 million.

According to Wallner, many of those affected work with older people in the public health laboratory or offer a variety of services.

“It really bothers me that there are few reductions in the other departments,” said Wallner, “but there are millions of reductions in (health and personal services).”

Edwards said the department’s budget grew 18 percent in the latest budget, and that was unsustainable and more than state taxpayers can support.

“If you look at the previous budget and the current budget and this one, you will see steady growth year on year,” said Edwards. “This is a reasonable plan at a sustainable price. You can’t ask state taxpayers to pay more out of the pandemic as businesses and households try to re-establish themselves. “

Longtime committee member Sharon Nordgren, D-Hanover, stated that the 96 posts at the Sununu Center should not be included in the reduced authorized position as the language required the state to retain or retrain these workers when the facility was closed. She also asked for clarification about $ 50,000 to encourage competition for family planning service providers.

Rep Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, was also concerned about the regulations affecting reproductive health centers.

She said while Edwards said the change in family planning funding would not affect health care for women, she disagreed.

Rogers said the proposed parenting change that requires physical and financial separation of abortion procedures is an impossible standard to meet.

“These clinics are not wealthy,” Rogers said, “and that would require building or buying a separate building and that is probably impossible for most of them.”

She said the reality is that the clinics are closing or services are no longer acceptable due to the provision thereof, and that this is going to be a disaster for women, whether they are for life or for choice.

The story of the finance committee is not to make policy decisions, she said, but the committee does so now.

“We can all see what’s going on,” said Rogers, “and I’m not going to support the downsizing of health and personal services.”

She said the department will not be able to perform the tasks that lawmakers have declared necessary.

“This budget was drawn up by the right of the Republican Party,” said Nordgren. “I can’t remember a time in my history that we all announced so openly.”

Despite the disagreements, particularly over the budget for health and personal services, many committee members found that most budget changes were unanimously or almost unanimously supported, including most of the work in Divisions I and II.

The Chair of Division II, Rep. Karen Umberger, R-Kearsarge, accepted the agreement on changes to the governor’s merger proposal for higher education and additional funding for double enrollment of junior and senior high schools in community college classes for credits and for disastrous special education aid for knowledge for school districts.

Other department heads found similar collaborative work.

The committee will hold a budget meeting for Members of the House on Monday and the House is expected to vote on the budget package on April 7th.

If passed, the Senate would then begin its budget work.

Four years ago the House did not approve its version of the budget when Conservative Republicans refused to vote for the package. House leaders hope to avoid a similar fate this year, adding the provision requiring legislative approval of states of emergency beyond the first 21 days in hopes of getting enough votes.

Garry Rayno can be reached at [email protected].

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