While legislative budget writers hear about state revenue estimates this week, and as Gov. Maggie Hassan prepares her first biennial budget, the question arises as to how much the two sides will work together in crafting a spending plan.
That was Hassan’s hope during her successful campaign against Republican Ovide Lamontagne.
She had proposed reforming the process so that the governor’s office and legislative budget writers would agree on all numbers pertaining to tax revenue, projected revenue growth, etc.
She proposed a “Consensus Revenue Estimating Panel” that would include a bipartisan group of economists, legislators and representatives from the governor’s office to work out what the numbers should be.
“As lawmakers, we can have differences and we can have different priorities, but we need to be using the same facts,” she said to the Portsmouth Rotary Club on Sept. 27 of last year. “The revenue estimates should serve as the foundation for the budget and should not be Democratic or Republican numbers. The numbers are the numbers.”
There is a Democratic majority in the House for the Democratic governor and a Republican majority in the Senate.
Right now, however, days after Hassan’s inauguration as the state’s 81st governor, the governor’s office and budget writers are on separate paths.
We heard on Monday, for example, from Legislative budget assistant Jeff Pattison that the state could be as much as $25 million behind on its revenue estimates for the next two fiscal years that start on July 1. There was no word whether Hassan’s people agreed or disagreed on that estimate.
The overall budget is expected to come in at about the $5.2 billion mark when it is proposed by Gov. Hassan sometime in the middle of February.
Government isn’t speaking, at least not yet, with unanimity about expectations for revenue and how much certain Hassan priorities -- such as raising the cigarette tax and legalized gambling -- will play into it.
Asked about the status of the unified approach, Hassan communication director Marc Goldberg said in an email that the administration was working on it and that it “should have more soon.”
It may be that proposing a unified approach, while a good idea in the run-up to the campaign, is actually harder to create in the run-up to the budget, especially when the big elephant in the room (legalized gambling and the revenue is may or may not create) is a huge political issue that affects far more than just the budget.