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Friday, January 25, 2013

Hassan forms commission to advise on state budget

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan’s hand-picked commission to examine future state revenues hosted its first meeting Wednesday.

Hassan’s Budget Director Gerald Murphy, the commission chairman, said he’s hoping this group will help advise Hassan on tax forecasts as she prepares to present her proposed, two-year state budget next month. ...

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CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan’s hand-picked commission to examine future state revenues hosted its first meeting Wednesday.

Hassan’s Budget Director Gerald Murphy, the commission chairman, said he’s hoping this group will help advise Hassan on tax forecasts as she prepares to present her proposed, two-year state budget next month.

Murphy claimed this revenue panel should not be seen as a threat to the tax-writing committees of the Legislature.

“We are not meaning this to be a replacement for any legislative process, it is merely an augment to that,” Murphy said. “Having an independent group is valuable to the process.”

Hassan created the revenue panel with the first executive order of her administration this week.

“A balanced budget is the cornerstone of a strong economy, and a fiscally responsible balanced budget requires revenue estimates that are as reliable and accurate as possible,” Hassan said in a statement. “By bringing together experts from the business community, academia and the public sector, we can work to improve our revenue estimates and ensure more accurate information throughout the budget process.’’

House Republican leaders, however, have questioned whether the group’s make-up is too liberal, noting its members include Jeff McLynch, executive director of the left-leaning New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

“Qualifications aside, some of the appointed members have apparent professional interests that may cause concern for conflict or have a history of political ideology that is far from being a “consensus” point of view. It would be preferable if the overall ideology of the panel was more balanced,” State Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, said. “We intend to keep a close eye on the panel and we’re happy to listen to what they have to offer, but at the end of the day, we are elected to act in the best interest of the taxpayers of our State. I believe it is in the taxpayers’ best interest to have an experienced, elected, bipartisan group of legislators to continue to do what they have done for decades.”

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said Hassan is well within her right to have a revenue group advising her but revealed that legislative leaders of both political parties turned down Hassan’s offer to become members of the committee.

“My concern is it is going to be used to justify revenue numbers that are unrealistic or not sustainable,” Bragdon said.

Other members of the panel include Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon, Revenue Commissioner Kevin Clougherty, Community College Chancellor Ross Gittell and economist Dennis Delay.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).