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Friday, August 8, 2014

NH governor asks agency heads for even budgets, ideas to streamline operations

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan directed state agencies to submit budget plans with no spending increase in 2016 and only 3 percent more in 2017.

On Thursday, Hassan also asked the head of each state agency division to submit one “detailed proposal” to make operations more efficient. ...

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CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan directed state agencies to submit budget plans with no spending increase in 2016 and only 3 percent more in 2017.

On Thursday, Hassan also asked the head of each state agency division to submit one “detailed proposal” to make operations more efficient.

“Meeting those goals as we develop the 2016 and 2017 state budget will require continued innovation on all of our parts,” Hassan wrote.

These proposals are due back to Hassan by Dec. 1, four weeks after the Nov. 4 election.

State law requires state agencies by Oct. 1 to submit two budgets for the two-year cycle that begins next July 1 – one to maintain existing level of services and a second, “change” budget with the cost for any new programs or increases in the workforce.

Hassan further asked they do a cost benefit analysis of how agencies use contracted help versus state workers carrying out duties.

In June 2013, Hassan signed the current $10.8 billion budget that increased spending nearly 5 percent overall and 3 percent from state taxes and fees.

Republican legislative leaders are quick to remind that Hassan had proposed a budget more than $200 million larger than the final product.

They credited Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and the GOP-led Senate with driving it down to the smaller bottom line.

Hassan’s GOP rivals panned her message as either too timid or part of a continuing attempt to conceal how bad things are until next month.

“This is the same old, same old formula that has put us in an economic and budget mess. We need new innovative ideas to fix our budget and our economy and continuing on the same path will further our disastrous budget outlook,” said GOP candidate Andrew Hemingway, of Bristol.

GOP rival Walt Havenstein, of Alton, said Hassan should reveal if state agency heads met targets to return unspent money to the treasury by June 30, the end of the first budget year.

“Telling her agencies to be conservative now is a smokescreen for the fact that they have already overspent,” Havenstein said. “She should come clean with the state Senate and the people of New Hampshire and release the spending figures.”

Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon said every two years, final spending numbers can’t be done until auditors complete their analysis in September.

Greg Moore, state director of the fiscally conservative, Americans for Prosperity, said Hassan has only talked a good game about innovation.

“Reality appears to be setting in for Governor Hassan in that talking about innovation doesn’t grow the economy, and New Hampshire’s economy isn’t growing,” Moore said. “Instead of actually doing the things to grow the pie, she’s simply done more of the same – raising gas taxes, embracing an Obamacare program that’s blown a hole on our budget – and now it’s time face the consequences.”

The next governor and lawmakers will face some expensive IOUs that come due in the next budget – a revised, state tax on hospitals which at a minimum will bring in $43 million less into state coffers in 2016-17 and a mental health care settlement that mandates spending of about $25 million more a year.

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