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GOP Leaders Blast Gambling Uncertainty in Hassan Budget

House GOP leaders attack $1B in new spending, uncertainty of gambling, and "unrealistic" revenue projections. Hassan says general fund spending kept below 2008 levels.

Republican leaders in the House held a short press conference at the Legislative Office Building on Feb. 19, slamming the 2014-2015 budget proposed by Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter.

The governor had just finished presenting her recommendations to the Senate and House Fiscal Committees, where she described the budget as fiscally responsible and a blueprint for economic growth.

The Republican leaders used other words like “unrealistic” and “misguided.”

They claimed Hassan's revenue estimates are “exaggerated” and count on proposals that haven't been approved and, in at least one case, casino gambling, are currently illegal.

House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said Republicans were trying to present realistic and conservative budget projections in order to ensure that revenues were actually realized. 

“Nothing will get this state in more trouble than unrealistic revenue projections,” he said. “It's happened before, it will happen again, and we can’t allow that to happen.”

State Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, attacked the $1 billion in increased spending, a 10 percent increase over the previous budget as well as what he said were “exaggerated revenue estimates” in five specific areas: real estate, business, tobacco, gambling, and rooms and meals taxes. He said the projections were about $104 million higher than other projections being put together by elected officials with a combined 100 years experience in projecting revenue. Hess also stated that both Democrats and Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee were in agreement about potential revenues, which showed, he added, that the governor was exaggerating revenues.

“So we know what we’re doing,” Hess said, adding that projections put together by him and others were within one-tenth of 1 percent. “But it’s not a partisan issue … as of last week, estimated revenues in these same categories (are) $92 million less.”

State Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, another minority leader, said she was concerned about how the budget would harm businesses, including small businesses, which are the engine that is driving the economy. She said during the previous two years, the Legislature offered a number of tax reforms that Hassan was proposing to roll back. Sanborn also pointed to more than $43 million that was proposed to be taken out of the pockets of job creators in the state, including increased auditing and other proposals that would “squeeze more money” out of people and businesses while not growing the economy.  

“When the governor uses unrealistic revenue growth assumptions and a casino that may never exist, she creates a real climate of uncertainty,” Sanborn said. “Businesses have already seen tax increases, like the LLC income tax and the campground tax, that go directly after them when the state inflates revenues in a budget and then finds itself in a shortfall at the end. We want to give our economy a chance to flourish and our employers to make it through these tough times. That’s how we’ll grow jobs, that’s how we’ll keep youth in our state, and that’s how we’ll attract young families here.”

State Sen. Jeannie Forrester, R-Meredith, also appeared at the press conference, calling the budget “very misguided” and noted that the last six states that approved casino gambling didn’t receive projected funds right away. If often took years, she said.

The press conference was held on the heels of Hassan presenting her budget to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Finance committees. In her budget, Hassan restores university funding, fully-funds adequacy funding in K-12 public education, restores L-CHIP funding, consolidates some state office functions and doubles the state’s R&D tax credit. 

The governor called her budget fiscally responsible. She said it cuts the general fund for for agencies by more than $500 million and was keeping the state's operating budget below Fiscal Year 2008 levels.

“The budget plan that we present today is a fiscally responsible proposal, balanced with no income or sales tax, that is focused on innovation, economic growth, and creating good jobs to support a strong middle class,” Hassan said. "It is also a budget that recognizes that we cannot address all of our challenges all at once in these uncertain economic times."

Hassan also referenced the casino bill in her budget presentation, which you can read in full here.

“I know expanded gambling has been an on-going and difficult debate, but I ask that you keep an open mind as we all work together to advance the priorities that will help us build a more innovative economic future,” she said. “Because the true risk we all face is the risk of letting our economy fall behind and allowing the good jobs and growing businesses of the innovation economy to develop elsewhere."

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