CONCORD (AP) — Lawmakers on Thursday sent a $13 billion, two-year state budget to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who is likely to veto it because it includes a rollback of planned business tax cuts.
Democrats control both the House and Senate, and the budget and the enabling policy bill passed both chambers along strict party lines. Lawmakers also approved a continuing resolution to maintain current spending for three months starting July 1 if the budget is vetoed.
Democrats said the budget provides property tax relief and a boost in education funding while addressing the state's most pressing problems.
Republicans argued it relies on one-time surplus funds for ongoing expenses and will drive the state toward a broad based tax. The business tax cuts, they argued, were necessary to provide stability and to maintain the thriving economy.
"Make no mistake about it, we're reversing the success that every person in the state of New Hampshire depends upon for their livelihood," said Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro. "This 13 percent increase in spending leads only in one direction. It's not sustainable, and it leads to an income tax, it leads to a sales tax, it leads to a capital gains tax."
Senate Republican Leader Chuck Morse agreed, saying Democrats were "changing the face of the state of New Hampshire" with their budget. Democrats countered that the plan responds to constituents' immediate needs.
"We are not committing future legislatures to follow every path that's in this budget," said Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene. "We are saying these are the right things to be doing right now."
The proposal essentially eliminates a paid family and medical leave program that also would have triggered a veto from Sununu, who opposed it because one of the funding options for businesses was a payroll deduction. It includes a $138 million increase in education funding and $40 million in unrestricted money for cities and towns in the form of revenue sharing.
The budget also provides for a new secure psychiatric unit, programs promoting a comprehensive system of care for children's behavioral health, and higher Medicaid reimbursement rates for addiction treatment and mental health care providers.
"We have a surplus of money. We also have a surplus of crises," said Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye.
Rep. Sharon Nordgren, D-Hanover, said the budget "delivers for working families, businesses, our seniors and our children, who are our future."
Sununu's office did not respond to a request for comment on the budget votes. Earlier Thursday, he released a statement on the continuing resolution, saying he was committed to ensuring no programs or services would be interrupted while budget negotiations continue.
Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, who is considering running for governor next year, accused Sununu of being unwilling to compromise. Democrats gave up some of their top priorities, he said, but if the budget is vetoed "everything is back on the table."
In 2015, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed a budget passed by the Republican-led Legislature over concerns that the business tax cuts at issue now would blow a hole in future budgets. A deal was reached three months later.