By Drew Cline
State budgets are like the Grinch’s Santa sack. They’re huge, unwieldy, and overstuffed with giveaways and surprises. Their contents are a mystery to anyone who doesn’t have hours to crawl inside and unwrap every little package, which is pretty much every normal person.
We’re not normal (we like reading budgets), so we’ve done the unpacking for you.
Here are five interesting things we’ve found in the Legislature’s budget that have been overlooked or underreported in the news.
- The budget imposes immediate business tax increases. We’ve written about this before, but news reports continue to get it wrong. The budget does not merely repeal rate cuts scheduled to take place two years from now. It also raises this year’s Business Profits Tax and Business Enterprise Tax rates by 2.6% an 12.5% respectively. We have more on the budget’s tax increases here.
- Budget writers created a dangerous structural budget deficit. Legislators shifted much of the current budget surplus into the 2020-21 budget, then spent that one-time money on recurring line items. As a result, expenditures for fiscal years 20-21 exceed revenues by $134 million. That creates a hole in the ongoing budget that future legislators will have to fill. We have more on that here.
- From this fiscal year through the end of 2021, the budget spends almost $500 million more than Gov. Chris Sununu proposed spending. You can see our outline of the differences here.
- The budget eliminates the existing prohibition on spending state taxpayer money on abortions. This repeal is located in House Bill 2 on Page 142, line 294, which states that the 2017 session law “prohibiting reproductive health facilities from using state funds to provide abortion services, is repealed.”
- The budget moves occupational licensing revenue into the General Fund. When a barber, tattoo artist, nurse or other applicant for a state license pays the required fee, the money is kept in a segregated “office of professional licensure and certification fund.” That fund is to be used only to finance the state’s licensing regime. The budget changes the law to require that any licensing funds left in the account at the end of each fiscal year be moved to the General Fund. This would lend support to any licensed professional’s complaint that state fees are too high.
These are only a few of the newsworthy items we found that have received little or no media coverage. We’ve found more, which we will share in future posts.
If you want to do your own digging through the dark, cavernous goodie bag, knock yourself out. You can read HB 2, the budget “trailer bill” that contains the legal changes, here.