Next week, I promise I will not be writing about the state budget.
As we were wrapping up the debate last week on the budget restructuring bill in the special session called by Governor Lynch, I was reminded that the legislature has been constantly dealing with budget problems since February 12 of last year. That was when the Governor first brought his budget plan forward.
There have been executive orders to reduce spending and legislative initiatives to find new revenue, cut costs and shuffle money around to maintain a balanced budget … at least on paper.
My take after legislative action last week is that the budget will be balanced for the current fiscal year ending on June 30. But, I predict that the idea we have a balanced budget for the next year will fall apart by early 2011. That is when the numbers will show that the current fix will not deliver a balanced budget for the biennium.
The adjustments to the budget passed last week will get us through the November election, and that may have value beyond the dollars involved. Hopefully, with the election behind us, leaders will step up and apply some new reality to the revenue and spending policies.
When the Senate’s special session began, there were just two bills before us. One bill would allow for expanded gambling and the other would repeal the hated LLC tax. The fact the gambling bill even existed reflected the compromise between the Senate majority leaders and Senator Lou D’Allesandro (Manchester). He wanted an up or down vote on his newest gambling bill; the majority leaders wanted his support for the budget restructuring.
As so many times before, the Senate supported the new expanded gambling bill by a 14-9 margin. Senator Bob Letourneau (Derry) could not be there for the early part of our session. Had he been there, the vote would have been 14-10. Hours later the House killed the bill in a 141-191 vote. So much for expanded gambling in 2010.
Senator Jack Barnes (Raymond) had lined up all 23 senators to join him as sponsors of his bill to repeal the LLC tax that was stuck in the budget last year. The majority tabled the bill as the same language was in the budget bill coming to the Senate later in the day. The vote to table the Barnes bill was along party lines.
With our work done on these two bills, the Senate went into recess for several hours as we waited for the House to pass and send us the budget restructuring bill. The wait was so long that retiring Senators were asked to give their farewell speeches before we dealt with the budget. Normally, these speeches would have been the last business of the day.
Late in the day, the budget bill, Special Session House Bill 1, arrived, having been passed by the House. It was an up or down vote for Senators as the majority wanted no amendments that would force a committee of conference with the House. That could have dragged the process out for a long time. In the end, the bill passed along party lines.
The next day the Governor signed the bill into law.
* * *
While I could write pages on the budget changes just passed, I highlight one $60 million item which clearly shows the speculative nature of parts of the budget restructuring. The plan is to sell or lease $60 million of assets between now and June 30 of next year.
This is called monetizing. If you want to monetize some state assets, you have to identify which ones can be sold and find a market for them. The legislation creates a Commission Exploring Monetizing Certain State Assets, Enterprises and Resources. The reality of selling or leasing within a year $60 million of assets, possibly buildings, land or even our liquor business, is so unrealistic as to likely create a budget gap after the election of an equal amount. The $60 million is 20 percent of the entire budget restructuring goal.
For weeks, the amount budgeted from monetization had been $50 million. It became $60 million in a flash. Senator Barnes inquired of Senator Harold Janeway (Webster) how that happened, and did the extra $10 million come about simply to fill a gap in the plan. Senator Janeway, always candid and straightforward, said Senator Barnes’ thought was a reasonable assumption. That is quite a way to build a balanced budget.
* * *
Last Saturday sure was dark and rainy. But there was a good group that turned out for the Off Duty event at Monadnock Park in Claremont to honor our military and provide some fun for families that attended. Congratulations to Beth Lasko who led the effort on behalf of the Eagle Times.
It was also a perfect day to stop by the Claremont Historical Society Museum which was opened for visits by Stevens High School alumni to see some of the society’s permanent collection as well as special exhibit, "Oh, To Be A Kid Again." The display of children related artifacts … toys, books, games, dolls … all reminded me of the treasures of my own childhood. I was fortunate to have Nancy Miville, the curator of the special exhibit, walk me through it. If you are of my generation, stop by and see some pieces that will bring back pleasant memories of your own childhood days.
Top of this page
Front Page Archives
Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")