2023 BUDGET ADDRESS
Thank you — Good Afternoon — and Happy Valentines Day!
Mr. Speaker. Mr. Senate President, honorable members of the house, senate, and Executive Council. Commissioners and Departments heads who are joining us today
And of course — my fellow citizens — WELCOME!
Today, I am here to present my recommended budget for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025.
This is an exciting opportunity to continue on our path of economic growth and personal liberty that we have built over the past six years.
New Hampshire is the envy of the nation and the freest state in the Union.
Other governors and people ask me all the time – how has New Hampshire been so successful in keeping our economy strong – even throughout COVID.
I explain it’s because we don’t overly burden our citizens with taxes and fees, and we ensure businesses can be successful without unnecessary regulations or bureaucracy.
Government is not here to guarantee a solution to your problems – but it is here to help pave Pathways of opportunity.
Pathways for economic growth,
Pathways for educational opportunity,
Pathways for lower taxes,
and Pathways for more personal freedoms.
Over the last six years, we have taken steps to chart a fiscally responsible, and often innovative course for our state. Those principals are guided by the budget. It’s the roadmap for the future and a blueprint for our continued success.
Across this country, states are facing budget shortfalls and deficits. When the times were good, these states increased taxes, built expansive new government programs without long-term strategies, and they spent like crazy.
But not in here New Hampshire…
Unlike Washington, DC, we balance our budgets in the 603 — just like families and businesses do.
Unlike other states, we don’t raise taxes to meet our needs. We shift resources to where they are needed most.
Unlike the rest of this country — we cut taxes, we increase investments, we work together, and we get the job done —
Without a sales tax
Without an income tax
Without an estate tax
Without a ‘Millionaires’ Tax. Good luck with that one Massachusetts.
And soon in NH the Interest and Dividends Tax will be fully phased out.
But wait, there’s more…
In this budget, I am recommending the complete elimination of the 7% Consumer Communications Services Tax. It’s outdated, regressive, and it is just high time the government stops taxing your phone calls.
Unlike this fiscal confusion in Washington, DC, this budget:
Is fiscally responsible; and balanced;
Ensures a surplus with additional savings for our Rainy Day Fund;
Has no new taxes of any kind;
Provides relief to property taxpayers;
Sends more cash to schools, cities, and towns;
invests in our workers; and
For the first time ever, we are adjusting the education funding formula to ensure we reduce the property tax burden to our citizens and give kids the adequacy they deserve.
You’ve heard me say it before and you’ll hear me say it again — when it comes to government, there is no greater responsibility than managing other peoples money.
It’s not our money — it’s their money.
Families across this state sweat out their paychecks.
They work hard to earn a living, and it's our job to let them keep as much of their money as possible, and make sure we're being efficient with their trust.
When it comes to our state’s finances — times are good. We have managed smartly, maintained our economic advantages and lived within our means.
As a result, we are proposing a smart and targeted budget that sets us all up for an even brighter future by prioritizing people over programs.
As a result of the pandemic, people grew restless, and started exploring new opportunities — they quit their jobs, looked for new adventures, and tried something different.
New Hampshire state government was not immune from these challenges. Like many industries, we continue to face a workforce shortage.
Right now, our state workforce vacancy rate hovers around 20%.
This budget will change that.
Today, I am announcing this budget includes an agreement between state and union representatives for an across-the-board 10% pay increase for our state workforce - the single largest increase in state worker salaries in nearly 50 years – followed by another 2% raise next year.
The success of New Hampshire is not because of the politicians in Concord, it’s because of the commitment to customer service from our employees that allows New Hampshire to be recognized as having America’s best Return on Taxpayer Investment, and the most efficient government in the nation.
And to our 10,000 employees, we all say Thank You!
Another area this budget focuses on is investments in our long-term future… our kids.
The foundation of any successful community starts with education, and today in New Hampshire, a child’s zip code does not define their chance at success.
In just the last six years:
We made record investments into early childhood education
Signed full-day kindergarten into law
Created Career Academies, giving high school students access to an associate degrees at no cost.
Created the very successful Education Freedom Accounts for low-income families
This budget builds on those successes by taking on the opportunity to rebuild the education funding formula allowing us to both reduce the property tax burden for towns across the state and increase base aid and adequacy for the first time in history.
So how can we possibly spend more money on public education than ever before yet still cut taxes and reduce the obligation from local communities?
As we say in New Hampshire, We got Wicked Smaht about it.
Right now the education funding formula is overly complicated and fundamentally imbalanced, creating an unspent surplus each year.
This proposal simplifies things. We start by increasing both base aid and free and reduced lunch, by approximately 25% and 30% respectively over just this biennium.
Overall, New Hampshire schools will see an additional $200 million over the next two years — and an additional $1 BILLION over the next 10 years – all with a priority towards school districts that need this aid the most.
These investments, which flow directly to local schools, will help cities and towns lower their property taxes.
The changes proposed will also have the effect of increasing funding to Charter Schools and DOUBLING the opportunity to our very successful Education Freedom Accounts.
We have an obligation to create doors of opportunity and give families the ability and freedom to chart their own path forward. Let’s never forget that and have the courage to set education funding on the right path once and for all.
Critics say these programs have grown too large. To them I say this: When a new door of opportunity is opened and our citizens race through it in record numbers, that is not an out-of-control system – that is government finally working. That is government finally ensuring that the system works for families and that the system meets the needs of the child – not the other way around. And that is something we should always fight for.
Now believe it or not, even after these changes are made, we still have the opportunity to invest in significant School Building Aid. I am proposing a $75 Million investment taken directly from the Education Trust Fund Surplus to get assistance to ensure our buildings are as strong and reliable as the kids that count on them.
We are funding kids at unprecedented levels, we are building new classrooms, and we also have a chance to introduce new opportunities into our curriculum to ensure our students have the next generation of workforce skills. Namely Computer Science.
There is absolutely no job of the future that will not rely on computers or computer science in some form.
The workforce demands already outpace the available skills. And these aren’t any jobs, they are high paying careers and we can ensure every one of our children has an opportunity to capture those openings.
I believe that computer science virtually guarantees that anyone with those skills won’t end up in poverty. And who better to learn those language skills than children. It is so much easier for kids to learn computers and computer coding than adults, so let’s give it to them.
I am proposing New Hampshire’s greatest computer science opportunity in history. $5M towards a computer science initiative that creates a statewide credentialling system and pays incentives to hundreds of new computer science teachers to become certified in their schools at No Cost.
This budget also doubles down on real world applications by being the first state in America to bring New Hampshire’s FIRST Robotics to EVERY middle and high school classroom in the state with their new Experiential Robotics Platform. This exciting program allows students to grow their skills and prepare their pathway into the workforce.
I also believe understanding our system encourages participation in our system. We need to maintain our example for America with our community based approach to government and community. I am proposing over $2 million to develop and update a New Hampshire-based civics curriculum for our kids.
And finally, I think we have an exciting opportunity to ensure we are motivating our kids to be engaged and reach for the stars. Not all heroes wear capes, but some wore space suits.
This week I am establishing a commission and this budget allocates funding for the design and construction of a statue of one of New Hampshire’s most revered teachers, Christa McAuliffe. To be placed right here on state house grounds to commemorate her selfless contribution to the State of New Hampshire and the world.
It's long overdue and will undoubtedly inspire our next generation of students every time they visit to achieve the unimaginable.
Now beyond the classroom their continues to be a lot of opportunity to address our most pressing needs.
The demand for mental health services for adults and children remains high - not only in New Hampshire but across the nation. That’s why this past year, the state made a landmark investment in children’s mental health services by purchasing Hampstead Hospital. This budget continues to support that investment by providing much needed financial resources for its operations and sustainability.
We are investing in juvenile peer-to-peer grief support to help students cope with the loss of their loved ones.
We are investing $2M into family resource centers to help families in crisis get the supports they need.
Not unsurprisingly, the lack of mental health workforce continues to be something that holds us back. That’s why this budget provides Student Debt Relief to encourage our students to choose a future in these rewarding fields and stay to work with NH Citizens.
And we recently secured another round of State Opioid Response grants – over $50 million over next couple years - a testament to the Doorway system that we have built to ensure wrap around rural access to care starting with prevention, to treatment and finally recovery.
Additionally, we are putting more resources than ever before into our Recovery Friendly Workforce initiative – which has not only outpaced its growth in OUR state, but just last week our team presented to all 50 states — many of who have already adopted this program. The Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative is going national and we in New Hampshire are doubling our efforts here to help ensure everyone with this disease has a chance to work and contribute.
And none of these efforts are possible without the people, so we are acknowledging the countless health care workers on the front lines by proposing an across the board Medicaid rate increase to help recruit and retain these critical workers.
And we cannot ignore our housing crisis. Last year, the InvestNH Housing Program became the most transformative and historic housing fund this state has ever seen.
On top of that initial $100 million grant, We are dedicating an additional $30M to InvestNH to help meet demand AND increasing investments into our Affordable Housing Fund by $25 million, ensuring we can construct or rehabilitate more affordable housing for low and moderate-income families.
And when we talk about housing and the homeless we always must remember our Veterans. Our military service veterans stood strong for us and, and we will continue to be there for them.
The creation of the first of its kind Veterans Campus with housing, supportive services and respite beds got underway this past year in Franklin.
And the investments we are making in workforce in this budget will help ensure that there are individuals trained, licensed and ready to assist our veterans on this campus and in our state’s veterans home.
We have also included a new $8.4 million for the Department of Military and Veteran Services. We relied on NH’s National Guard throughout the pandemic. We must now ensure that they have the resources in place to complete their mission.
With smart budgeting and fiscal responsibility comes the opportunity to use state surplus funds for capital investments. We cannot and should not rely on these one-time funds to fund long term programs. That would create huge problems down the road. Too many states get caught up in one-time windfalls and create unsustainable government programs that then must be funded by higher taxes on their citizens in the future.
The buy now, pay later mentality is not how we do things in New Hampshire, which means we spend one-time revenue on one-time projects.
By budgeting accordingly, we avoid irresponsibly growing the size of government and burdening our taxpayers with long-term liabilities.
With the numerous one time infrastructure investments this budget and the capital budget includes, we will be adding approximately $180 to the Rainy Day Fund by the close of Fiscal Year 25. Building up our reserves during the good times we are currently experiencing will ensure that any future downturns will impact the State in the smallest degree possible.
And lastly, before we close out, this budget continues to send a message to businesses across this country that New Hampshire remains a hub of innovation. Here in the Granite State, we listen to and work with the businesses that are the bedrock of our communities.
After years of cutting thousands of pieces of big government red tape, we continue to find efficiencies and streamline improvements to the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification.
This budget includes landmark legislation to grant universal license recognition for the professions in New Hampshire that require a license. If you have a substantially similar license and are in good standing in another state, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a license on Day One in New Hampshire!
If a small business owner needs a license to do their job or operate their business in their current state — New Hampshire will recognize their license here, incentivizing working professionals across the nation to move to New Hampshire.
This won’t be easy. I appreciate that we are fighting every entrenched politically-connected bureaucracies that seek to stifle competition. But that isn’t the embodiment of the Live Free or Die Spirit.
I am proposing to fully remove 34 different outdated licenses from state government, eliminating 14 underutilized regulatory boards, and almost 700 unnecessary statutory provisions.
The state doesn’t license the contractor who frames your house – but for some reason we license the person who plants a rosebush in your front yard. Not anymore.
Less red tape and more commonsense – that’s how we grow our businesses and our economy – that’s the New Hampshire way.
Furthermore, my budget creates an independent Office of Regulatory Review and Government Efficiency to be a watchdog to eliminate and prevent frivolous rules and regulations as well as to find efficiencies within state government.
We are committed to breaking down regulatory barriers, lowering the cost of entry to do business here, increasing free-market competition, and signaling to the rest of America that New Hampshire is the #1 state in America for Economic Freedom.
In the next few months, I look forward to working closely with members of both parties as we deliver for the people of our state a fiscally responsible, balanced budget with no new taxes and no new fees.
We are here to design systems, create efficiencies, put people over programs, and deliver results for the citizens who sent us to Concord.
We cannot let this budget process be hijacked by politics, and we cannot let the budget serve as a vehicle for partisan maneuvering. It must be about the individual — our employees — our children — and our taxpayers.
Washington is broken. They can barely manage to keep the government running — but that’s not how we do it in New Hampshire.
Our citizens demand excellence, accountability, and transparency — and THAT’s what we are going to deliver for them with this budget.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the great state of New Hampshire!