On Thursday, May 30, the Senate Finance Committee passed a proposal to address school funding in the state budget by a vote of 4-2. The proposal adds $92 million in state funding for schools over current law in the next two years.
The next step for the budget is a full Senate vote, which is scheduled for Thursday, June 6.
The budget process
The Governor introduces the first draft of the budget — as Governor Sununu did in February. The Governor then hands the draft off to the House, where the House Finance Committee makes any changes it thinks are appropriate. For the 2020-2021 proposed budget, the House added $164 million in additional school funding.
After the House passes their version of the budget, it then goes to the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee also makes changes based on its own priorities.
The Senate Finance Committee cut the House’s proposal for school funding by $72 million–but it still added $95 million in what schools would receive through current law. (Read more about the basics of the Senate Finance Committee’s proposal here.)
Next, the full Senate votes on the budget. This year, the vote is scheduled for Thursday, June 6, 2019.
Once the Senate passes their version, the House has to agree to the changes that the Senate made. If they do not, they will go into a “committee of conference” (sometimes referred to as a “C of C”), where a small group of House and Senate members will come together to iron out the details and make a compromise on the differences between their two versions.
Once the chambers have agreed on a final budget, it goes to the Governor’s desk. A final budget must be presented to the Governor by June 30.
The Governor has three options:
- Sign the final proposal into law;
- Veto the final proposal, sending the state into a “continuing resolution,” where the state will keep working off of the previous years’ budget until lawmakers can make a deal; or,
- Do nothing– in which case the budget will become law without signature.
In NH, the Governor cannot make line-item changes to the budget and must accept or reject the entire proposal.
Governor Sununu’s Concerns
According to the Conway Daily Sun, the Governor has said that he is optimistic that there will be a new state budget by July 1. But on Twitter, he has been vocal in his disapproval with the House version of the budget and has claimed that the Senate’s version would raise taxes and has threatened to veto it.
I am determined to pass a budget that does not raise taxes and is fiscally solvent, and look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature so that the we can come together on a commonsense compromise that balances the needs of the state with the concerns of our taxpayers.— Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) May 31, 2019
Parents, educators, taxpayers, and even students have urged lawmakers and the Governor to restore the cuts to school funding that continue to put towns across the state in a financial bind. Governor Sununu traveled to Berlin on May 26, where he met with city and education officials. The Conway Daily Sun reported that he acknowledged the pressure that the city was under:
“I don’t have a magic checkbook,” said Sununu but added, “Hopefully, we can find a way to get this done and still be fiscally responsible.”
Since 2017, when lawmakers began cutting stabilization grants by 4% each year (equating to a 16% cut in 2020), Berlin has lost about $2.1 million in state funding for education.
The Governor mentioned a gradual restoration of stabilization grants, as well as a revenue sharing program that would return $40 million to cities and towns in New Hampshire, which they could then use to fund their schools. This money would come largely from a nationwide settlement that the U.S. Department of Justice negotiated with Volkswagen over emissions tests, according to the article.
Reaching Higher NH will release a town-by-town impact analysis of the Senate Finance Committee’s proposed budget this week. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for our general newsletter, to get notified of updates.