Bipartisan support for budget reduction plan
The first action on the current budget deficit of the 2009 legislative session took place last Thursday when the House Finance Committee voted 25-0 for $16.250 million of operating budget reductions. All members of the committee, in a display of bipartisanship, voted to support HB 30 which was requested by the Governor. It is one more step in a long process to insure that the current budget will be balanced when the fiscal year ends on June 30.
HB 30 includes reductions to spending for the Judiciary, the state Retirement System as well as the legislatureís budget and reduces the amount of general fund money going to the highway fund. And hospitals will get less for outpatient physician charges and the bill has a $500,000 reduction in the Immunodeficiency Virus Protection program. Most interesting, it authorizes the state to "sweep, "a government term, or take millions of dollars from dedicated accounts and move the monies to the stateís general fund. These funds are excess monies not needed by different organizations to do their job. Those impacted include the Police Standards and Training Council Fund, Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services Fund, and Reflectorized Plate Inventory Fund.
At other times when the legislature has been looking for money proposals to sweep some of money from these same designated funds has met with vehement opposition. So far, I have not heard one objection. That shows that everyone understands the gravity of our financial situation. After the $16 million plus in reductions, there is another $60-70 million more that may need to be cut. State Representatives from the area serving on the House Finance Committee this term include Randy Foose (New London), Beverly Rodeschin (Newport), Dan Eaton (Stoddard) and Sandy Harris (Claremont).
HB 30 will be voted on during the January 28 House session. If passed as expected, the bill will then find its way to the Senate to be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee. Given the importance of the work necessary to have a balanced budget, the Senate Finance Committee will act quickly.
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February 12 is going to be a very significant day in Concord. First, Governor Lynch will present his budget for the biennium beginning on July 1 of this year and ending on June 30, 2011. He will be following a requirement that Governors present their budget recommendations to a joint session of the legislature by February 15 in odd numbered years.
Department and agency heads began budget planning months ago. And for the past few weeks the decision making has rested with Governor Lynch and his staff. The uncertainty of the state and national economies and what the stimulus package from Washington will look like are all unknowns. What is understood by everyone is that there will be less money to spend over the next two years than in the original budget for the current biennium. It will be a lot less money.
The second event on February 12 will be the New Hampshire celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. No historic figure has been quoted more or compared to President Barak Obama more over the past few months than Abraham Lincoln. There is a national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and many states across the country have created state commissions. I sponsored legislation in 2007 to create our New Hampshire Commission and Governor Lynch signed it into law in July of that year. Since then, the Commission has supported and will be publicizing plans for programs and activities to celebrate Lincolnís life and his contributions to the nation during the era of the Civil War, our most trying period.
Abraham Lincoln has very significant connections to our state. Decades before primaries, Lincoln made just one trip east to try to create political support for his candidacy for President. He traveled from Illinois in February, 1860 to New York to give a major address. His speech reflected who he thought, based on the Constitution and foundersí intentions, should determine whether or not states coming into the union would be free or slave. He believed the decision rested with the federal government and not the citizens of the new states. His address was extraordinarily successful. A couple of days later he arrived in Exeter where his son was a student at Phillips Exeter and went on to give major speeches in Concord, Manchester, Dover and Exeter. That brief trip to New Hampshire, not dissimilar to presidential primary stopovers by todayís candidates, brought very favorable national attention to Lincoln and laid the groundwork for support at the Republican convention from New Hampshire and other New England delegates.
A key participant in State House celebration will be Abraham Lincoln presenter, Steve Wood, from Claremont. In putting together the program for the celebration, over and over again, people said to me, "you have to get that Lincoln fellow from Claremont." Steve has a remarkable following around the state from his many presentations over the last few years. His recitations of Abraham Lincolnís Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Speech will be highlights of the upcoming celebration. The State House event will be open to the public.
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