CONCORD (AP) — Uncertainty remains over whether New Hampshire House Republicans can agree on a budget plan as the chamber runs up against a Thursday deadline for sending a spending plan to the Senate.
The House Finance Committee’s $11.9 billion plan, which was backed by GOP House leaders, was rebuked Wednesday by Democrats and a large cohort of Republicans, forcing the House to adjourn early as lawmakers scrambled for a deal.
Numerous amendments will come forward Thursday, with Democrats proposing plans to win over moderate Republicans and the most fiscally conservative members looking for ways to slash spending.
House Speaker Shawn Jasper and his leadership team offered no compromise amendment of their own, but expressed optimism a budget would pass. Top House budget writers, including some Democrats, as well as Republican Rep. JR Hoell, a budget detractor, were seen coming in and out of leadership offices Wednesday afternoon.
The chaos Wednesday began when 66 out of 196 Republicans teamed up with Democrats to reject the House Finance Committee’s $11.9 billion two-year spending plan. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s $12.1 billion plan was the blueprint, but House budget writers made significant changes, including nixing $18 million for full-day kindergarten and giving $50 million to communities for property tax relief.
Republicans said the plan spends too much money. It’s about 5 percent bigger than the existing budget. Democrats then tried to sell moderate Republicans on their own version of the budget, which boosts spending even more for substance abuse programs, full-day kindergarten and a host of other priorities.
How Belknap County voted:
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives took three swinging strikes without so much as foul ball on Wednesday before tabling the budget and recessing the session until this morning when lawmakers will step to the plate again.
In the first of three roll call votes, the budget proposed by the House Finance Committee failed by a vote of 220 to 134. Only seven members of the Belknap County delegation, all Republicans, voted in favor: Reps. Dennis Fields and Tim Lang of Sanbornton, Don Flanders and Peter Spanos of Laconia, Herb Vadney of Meredith, John Plumer of Belmont and Peter Varney of Alton. Rep. Dave Huot, the lone Democrat in the delegation, was joined by seven Republicans in opposition: Reps Marc Abear of Meredith, Glen Aldrich and Norm Silber of Gilford, Robert Fisher of Laconia, Ray Howard of Alton, Michael Maloney of Gilmanton and Michael Sylvia of Belmont. Reps. Valerie Fraser of New Hampton and Barbara Comtois of Barnstead were excused and did not vote.
Following the failure of the committee's budget, a conservative faction in the House proposed an alternative that would have reduced expenditures by $200 million, which was convincingly scuttled by a margin of 282 to 75. Eight members of the Belknap County delegation, all Republicans, voted with the minority: Reps. Abear, Aldrich, Fisher, Howard, Maloney, Plumer, Sylvia and Silber. The remaining six Republicans — Fields, Flanders, Lang, Spanos, Vadney and Varney — along with Huot voted with the majority.
Finally, despite garnering the most votes of three alternatives, a budget offered by a cadre of Democratic representatives also failed by a vote of 196 to 162. Among the representatives from Belknap County, only Huot voted in favor while the 14 Republicans present and voting were opposed.
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