By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — The Senate Finance Committee hopes to have 99 percent of its work done by the end of this week, but there are a number of outstanding issues that need to be resolved before the final vote.
The commission on Tuesday agreed to increase state funding for housing measures but rejected a plan to allocate the budget to cut the amount cities and towns have to pay employees under state retirement plans. decided not to contribute to state-provided public television. They used to do that, but the practice was abandoned over a decade ago.
The state’s embattled Finance Committee decided to fund housing with $45 million, the same amount as the House budget bill, but with a different distribution of funds.
The plan will allocate $20 million to affordable housing, $10 million to investment programs, $10 million to homeless programs, and $5 million to new initiatives.
The Republican majority on the committee refused to add $5 million to the new initiative proposed by Senator Cindy Rosenwald of the Nashua Democratic Party.
The commission also decided to put $5 million of the affordable housing fund into tax credits to encourage investment in historic buildings.
Last year, the state spent $28 million to cut the costs of the state retirement plan for cities and towns, including school districts and county employees.
The House budget appropriated $50 million from the expected revenue surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023 as a one-time payment to relieve the plan’s unfunded debt in lieu of offsetting local government employee premiums. .
The committee had three proposals on retirement plan costs by Tuesday, and chairman Senator James Gray (R, Rochester) said which of those three amendments would ultimately be decided. said it would not be similar.
But Rosenwald said he wants to go ahead with a similar plan to this year’s, and that cities and towns are being asked to use the money to reduce property taxes.
“There’s nothing else in our budget that directly reduces property taxes,” she said. “Giving more money to cities and towns is no guarantee that it will be used to reduce property taxes.”
Rosenwald said her proposed amendment would direct the funds to be used for property tax relief, as well as payments over the next two years.
Senator Lou Dallesandro (D-Manchester) also said property taxes have increased as a boom in the property market has boosted property values, and the amendment would reduce the tax burden on property owners if passed. I agree with the deaf opinion.
But Senate Speaker Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) disagreed that nothing else in the budget would ease property taxes, telling the committee on Friday that $79 million in fiscal 2024, $79 million He noted that he would discuss a new education funding formula that would increase the allocation of $85 million. in 2025
“Every time we raise money for education, we get a reduction in property taxes,” he said.
He also pointed out that more funding programs such as road and bridge construction would also reduce property taxes.
“We’ve spent a lot of time all winter on priorities like provider fees, $120 million or more in funding, and, above all, more funding for mental health services.” said Bradley. He noted that pay increases for state employees and childcare services are other priorities.
“This commission has done really well within its means (while addressing top priorities),” he said.
Rosenwald said nothing called for a reduction in property taxes like the amendments do.
But she noted that the committee decided to cut about $80 million in General Fund funding from the Medicaid program, even though it has $164 million more in revenue than the House.
“We can afford to give cities and towns guaranteed property tax relief,” she said, but the amendment was defeated 4-2.
One of the other proposed changes to the retirement system was the subject of a Tuesday morning news conference with public security officials and officials calling for the Senate to include in the budget what the House approved.
The change affected approximately 1,800 state law enforcement and firefighters, or Group II members, who were members of the retirement plan but were not entitled when the benefit parameters were changed in 2011. give.
The House has included $50 million in the cost of returning benefits eligibility requirements to what they were before the 2011 change.
Governor Chris Sununu has also voted against changing the retirement plan.
Rosenwald and D’Alessandro are asking New Hampshire Public Television to return state funding, saying local programming is so scarce and additional funding will help provide new programming.
The station’s president and CEO, Peter Frid, said in 2011 the station lost $2.7 million in state funding, had to lay off 40% of its staff and cut all local programming. said there wasn’t.
He said the station was able to bring back some programming, but not the amount it wanted to offer.
“With $500,000, we can add some local programs…it will spread to the Internet.” .
The department may add educational materials, he said, and is working on a workforce development project that could be used to help those wishing to move to the state.
But Rosenwald and D’Alessandro trailed by a 4-2 vote.
Senate Finance Committee to meet again at 1 p.m. Thursday
Garry Rayno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.