New Hampshire lawmakers are now in the final phase of the biennial budget-writing season, a process that requires countless decisions about how to raise and spend the state’s dollars. This online tool gives you the opportunity – with just a few mouse clicks – to put your own stamp on the budget.
To make things simpler, we begin you in the same position from which the Legislature's budget writers begin: responding to Governor Lynch’s budget proposal. With that as the starting point, you have the following menu of options for each particular area of state spending:
Make cuts or spending increases similar to those made by House or Senate lawmakers,
Restore spending cut by the Governor,
Turn to new sources of revenue,
Change the projections for state tax revenues, a decision which determines the pot of money available for state services.
We’ve tried to keep this exercise simple, but without glossing over the complexity of the decisions at stake. So you’ll have far fewer options than those available to actual budget writers. But the essential process is similar. It’s up to you to find the right blend of spending and revenue to balance the budget. Like the budgets crafted by the Governor and lawmakers, your product will be an expression of your priorities for state government. Keep an eye on the calculator below to keep track of your balance. Any negative number must be offset by further cuts or new revenue sources, and a positive number indicates a surplus.
We’ve limited this calculator to the state’s General and Education Trust Funds – money raised through state taxes. Your first step is to set your revenue estimates. Remember: any change will be off the Governor's baseline. With a few exceptions, we've limited the menu of spending and revenue options to those that are actually still on the table in the negotiations between the Senate and the House. Thus, no option for expanded gambling, a sales or income tax, or countless other ideas. Finally, we'd love to hear from you – please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And with that, let the budgeting begin....
Revenue - Estimates for 2012-13
Your choice here, which will determine much of what you do later, is based on how well you think the state economy will fare over the next two years. You can adopt the Governor's projections, which will not change the numbers in the tally above. But if you think that forecast is too optimistic - as do budget writer in the House and Senate - you'll choose one of the lower growth rates, resulting in a drop in the revenue available to you. You can also chose revenue numbers forecast by the Center.
Governor's revenue estimate (5.7 percent growth over last biennium)
Assumes robust economic growth coming out of the recession.
NH House revenue estimate (0.1 percent decline below last biennium)
Assumes continued sluggish economic growth, with flat tax receipts.
NH Senate revenue estimate (1 percent increase over last biennium)
Assumes very cautious growth in economy over next two years.
NHCPPS revenue estimate (3.5 percent increase over last biennium)
Assumes cautiously optimistic growth.
Revenue - Gambling revenue
Gov. Hassan has included in her budget plan $80 million from a one-time license fee for the development of a state-regulated casino.
Legalize expanded gambling with a single casino in NH. Revenue this biennium is associated with one-time, up-front license fee, not actual gambling activities.
Revenue - Tax & Fee Reductions
Cutting these taxes would reduce the amount of money available for state services, but supporters of the cuts say they would improve NH's overall business climate.
Allow some business owners to claim a deduction on certain business taxes.
Cut the tax on Meals & Rooms from 9% to 8%
This tax was increased two years ago to help balance the last budget.
Eliminate the tax on gambling winnings
Lower the Business Profits Tax by 0.5%
Reduce the cigarette tax by 10 cents per pack
Revenue - Tax Increases
Republican leadership in the House and Senate have vowed not to increase or add new taxes, so any of these proposals are unlikely to be a part of the 2012-13 budget.
Add an 8% estate tax on estates worth more than $2 million
Imposing this new tax would possibly result in declines in other state taxes, including the Interest and Dividends Tax.
Increase the cigarette tax
Spending - Aid to cities and towns
The Governor's budget includes many cuts in state support to cities and towns. Without significant changes in local budgets, those cuts would likely result in increases in local property taxes. You can choose to reverse some of those cuts below, or make further cuts.
Fully fund School Building Aid to school districts
The Governor proposed cutting these payments to schools, a move that districts say would require property tax increases. Checking this option would reverse that cut.
Reduce the portion of Meals-and-Rooms tax revenue typically shared with cities and towns
Restore Catastrophic Aid payments.
This aid helps school districts cover high-cost special-education students. The Governor's budget would cut the program by about $30 million, which school districts said would have to be offset by local tax increases.
Restore revenue sharing with cities and towns to levels from 2008-09.
Restore state's share of public employee retirement costs
Municipal officials say failure to restore this cut would result in higher property taxes and deep personnel cuts at the local level. The Governor, House and Senate have eliminated the state's share, saying it would be offset by reforms in the pension system.
Spending - Education
Cut all funding for drop-out prevention program
Cut state funding for Community Colleges
This represents a roughly 36% cut in state funding below current levels.
Cut state funding to state University System
This represents a 45% cut in state funds below current levels.
Increase state funding for Community Colleges to current levels
Increase state funding for University System to current levels
Spending - Health and Human Services
Measuring the impact of many of these proposed spending changes is difficult. Some might result in reduced services for those now receiving assistance. Some might result in greater pressure on municipal services and non-profit groups.
Cut emergency preparedness funds
Cut funding to Community Mental Health Centers
Would likely reduce services for several thousand mentally ill adults and children
Cut state funding for several health programs for the elderly, including Foster Grandparent Program, Alzheimer's Caregivers Program, and ServiceLink Resources Center.
Cut subsidies for adoptive or foster care parents
Cut various services for the developmentally disabled (including supports for families on Medicaid)
Eliminate childcare subsidies for working families to offset other cuts to Health and Human Services
Eliminate funding for several public health services, including a tobacco quitline, STD prevention, and family planning.
Eliminate monthly cash assistance for unemployed parents on Medicaid
Eliminate the Children In Need of Service program, which serves at-risk youths or those with repeated behaviorial problems
Reduce funding for Domestic Violence Program by half
Restore funding for people waiting to receive services for developmental disabilities
Restrict some payments to state hospitals meant to offset the cost of uncompensated charity care.
Hospitals say this cut would require them to increase charges to the privately insured or limit their services.
Shift the state's Medicaid program to a managed care model
Proponents say this would increases efficiencies and savings in Medicaid, the largest single expense in the state budget.
Spending - Other state programs
Allow current education funding law to remain in effect, increasing state funding for some districts, decreasing it for others
Cut funding for NH Legal Assistance, which provides legal services to the poor.
Cut funding to the Department of Cultural Resources
Cut funds to LCHIP, the state conservation program
Cut staff at various pollution control and water management offices
Increase funds for LCHIP
Increase spending on charter schools to keep up with student enrollment projections
Lease operations at the Cannon Mountain ski slope.
This would save the need for state funds to operate the ski resort, which is in state-owned parkland.
Reduce spending on travel and tourism promotion
Spending - Payroll Expenses
Cut pay and benefits for state workers across the board
This would have to be negotiated with the state employees union.
Cut payroll costs at the Department of Revenue Administration.
Department says this would result in the possible loss of 20 auditor positions.
Cut payroll expenses at the Department of Safety
Department says this would likely result in the loss of roughly 24 state troopers.
Cut spending at Department of Corrections.
Could result in the transfer of 600 NH inmates to out-of-state or private prison facilities.
Layoff roughly one dozen lawyers in the Attorney General's Office
This would require the closure of the state Consumer Protection Bureau, according to the AG's office.
Require retired public workers to pay more for their healthcare costs.
Spending - Surplus or Deficit?
Congratulations on getting through the budget process. Check the "difference" figure below the revenue/spending tallies at the top of this page. If that number is positive, you balanced the budget. You can either go back and increase spending, or you can save that amount in the state's Rainy Day fund. If that number is negative, however, you're still in deficit. Go back to the start of the calculator and either make further spending cuts or adopt some new sources of revenue. Either way, the budget must end in balance. Good luck!
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