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Governor John Lynch talks with the Editorial Board at The Telegraph Thursday afternoon, April 14, 2011.
Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lynch passes on vetoing state budget

CONCORD – Gov. John Lynch decided to let the $10.3 billion state budget and trailer bill become law without his signature, concluding that a showdown veto “would not lead to a better budget.”

“This budget puts college out of reach for too many families, jeopardizing our state’s successful economic strategy,” Lynch said. “It will drive up the cost of health care and put health care at risk for too many of our most vulnerable families, and it undercuts some of the basic workings of state government, impacting the services expected by our citizens.”

Lynch criticized cuts to higher education, public safety, transportation and human-service programs.

“Given the Legislature’s rejection of proposed remedies to the problems in the budget, it is clear that a veto would not lead to a better budget,” Lynch said.

House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, said Lynch’s decision allowed him to call off plans for a session Thursday.

“It is great news for New Hampshire that Governor Lynch realizes the importance of having a budget that lives within our means and delivers tax cuts that will grow our economy,” O’Brien said in a statement.

“This budget lives up to our promises of having responsible, sustainable spending in state government and is committed to creating good, new jobs. This is only a first step in our efforts to get back to affordable government and low taxes that make New Hampshire special, but it is an outstanding start.”

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said avoiding a veto is a big victory for the GOP-dominated Legislature.

“While the governor will certainly not be awarded any profiles in courage by not signing this budget,” Bettencourt said, “we are glad that he decided not to stand in the way of the critical reforms this budget delivers to move our state back to leading the nation to economic recovery.”

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives and Senate approved the spending plan (HB 1) and the trailer bill making budgetary changes in state law (HB 2) by margins large enough to overcome a veto.

“I believe this is the best budget I would see coming out of the Legislature,” Lynch said. “It is possible they would have looked at it again and made even deeper cuts.”

Lynch said he still considered taking out his veto pen, which would have been the first budget veto since Gov. Craig Benson did it in 2003.

“In considering whether to veto the budget bills or allow them to become law, I have two major considerations: Could a veto result in a better budget for the people of New Hampshire, and what are the potential consequences of a veto for our people?” Lynch said.

“Throughout the budget process, members of the public, legislators, state agency heads and I repeatedly raised serious concerns about this budget. While some of those concerns were addressed, many were not.”

Lynch had proposed a 5 percent cut in state aid to higher education, which was already the lowest of any state.

Lawmakers instead cut the budget for four-year colleges by more than 45 percent and aid to two-year community colleges by nearly 20 percent.

“This is the most dramatic and severe cut to higher education in the nation,” said Lynch, a former chairman of the University System Board of Trustees.

“There will be double-digit tuition increases at our college campuses, and even fewer families will be able to afford college. Our state’s economic success is based on our skilled and educated workforce. This undermines our state’s successful economic development strategy.”

Lynch said lawmakers cut the spending he had proposed last February by $260 million, and insisted many of the cuts wouldn’t make state government more efficient.

“These cuts do not reform state government by eliminating or streamlining the delivery of services,” he said. “Instead, the Legislature made severe cuts to the university and community college systems, hospitals, and health and human-service programs.”

Lynch budget director John Beardmore took issue with the claim of GOP legislative budget writers that the final package cuts state spending by 11 percent.

“The $4.4 billion budget made up of tax and fee revenue is nearly 9 percent less than the current one,” Beardmore said. “Recent cuts in spending to the current year’s budget that ends June 30 reduces the base and lowers the amount the next budget actually cuts.”

Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, taunted Lynch in a statement.

“If the governor truly disliked this budget as much as he said he did, he should have had the nerve to do it,” Smith said. “But let’s face it: After this week’s repudiation of the governor’s other vetoes, Governor Lynch just simply realized his veto pen was out of ink.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, check out Landrigan on Twitter (@KLandrigan), and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.