The first of the three major budget bills sailed through the Senate on a voice vote last Wednesday. That was Senate Bill 25, the capital budget for the state for the next two years. This week the key appropriations bills, House Bills 1 and 2, will be voted on in the Senate.
Senator David Boutin (Hooksett) chairs the Capital Budget Committee and brought Senate Bill 25 to the Senate floor. He noted the bill authorizes nearly $87 million in bonds that will be paid for by general funds raised by the state. Senator Boutin reported, "This figure is roughly $3 million less than the House version and well below the State Treasurerís recommended cap."
River Valley Community College is a major beneficiary of the 2012-13 capital budget with $3 million of the $18 million allocated for capital projects at the Community College System going to our local college. That $3 million will be used to renovate and upgrade the collegeís main building in Claremont. Plus, the college will share in the $1.5 million for maintenance of the community college systemís facilities.Total bonding authorized in Senate Bill 25 when you include highway and other non-general funded projects is $218 million for the next two years.
Given how close the House and Senate versions are and the fact that the majority of savings came from a reduction in the amount of bonding for the Department of Corrections, which the Commissioner agreed to, there is a possibility the House will accept the Senate version and not call for a committee of conference.
Senator Boutin and his counterpart in the House, Representative Gene Chandler (Bartlett), have demonstrated the positive result of working together on important and what can be complicated legislation. It has been a pleasure to serve on the Capital Budget Committee under Senator Boutinís leadership.
After Senate action approving the capital budget, the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of the next two year general fund budget in House Bills 1 and 2. This action came on the heels of a presentation by a unique man, Stewart Lamprey, who served many years in public service in New Hampshire.
Stewart Lamprey was a House member and Speaker. He was a member of the Senate, including being President, and was chief of state to former Governor Walter Peterson. And along the way he did a stint as Undersecretary of Commerce in Washington.
As we are nearing the end of the once every two years budget season, it was appropriate that the Senate President invited Stewart to address the Senate. It is extremely rare that a non Senator is asked to address the chamber.
He said that performance should be measured. Administers need to be held accountable for running their agencies well and be judged by meeting desired outcomes. And he cautioned about those who have a stake in the budget outcomes as they may have "undue effect on legislation leading to unintended consequences."
Mr. Lamprey also advised that legislators look into interagency agreements which allow tens of millions of dollars to flow back and forth. And, he suggested close examination of the dozens and dozens of dedicated funds that are outside the state budget.
It was sage advice from a man with a lifetime of practical, hands on experience with New Hampshire state budgets. Government taxing and spending has grown over the years and it is clear the legislature needs to find tools to measure and judge how we use the peopleís money.
Was it a coincidence that at the same session that Stewart Lamphrey spoke the Senate voted on two bills dealing with performance measurement programs for state government?
Yes it was a coincidence, but the Senate did vote to continue to study House Bill 508 that would establish a performance measurement system in the Department of Health and Human Services, out stateís largest agency.
A few minutes later, the Senate also voted to work on House Bill 520 which would require that "certain bills include a performance standard note identifying standards and outcomes associated" with certain bills before the legislature. These bills are possible steps to meet the goals Stewart Lamprey brought to us. They will be studied this fall and get a final vote in the Senate in early 2012.
Performance budgeting may seem arcane and very technical but it could be a tool to increase the value achieved from the money spent by the state in the future.
One of the hallmarks of my annual calendar is the first week of June when farmersí markets around the state open for business. Two of our larger local markets open this week.
The Claremont market opens on Thursday afternoon and the Newport one opens on Friday afternoon. I look forward to being there for the openings and visiting regularly this summer to pick up good locally produced food and other products. And it is always fun to see the farmersí market regulars and the occasional visitors, too.
I also like to think my modest purchases help local farmers and encouraged agricultural sustainability in our region.
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