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October 9, 2013

N.H. surplus could boost social services, fiscal reserves

Hassan finds support on both sides of aisle

CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan is getting early support from Southern New Hampshire lawmakers to use $76 million in budget surplus to help the needy and boost emergency fiscal reserves.

Lawmakers said they agree with Hassan those are priorities, though they want more specifics from the governor.

“Those two areas are extremely important,” said Rep. Debra DeSimone, R-Atkinson.

“A combination deal is probably best,” said Rep. Mary Allen, R-Newton.

In announcing the surplus, Hassan, a Democrat, said uncertainty over revenues led to compromising on budget cuts no one wanted.

“With this surplus, and strong revenues for this year, my hope is we can work in that same cooperative spirit to use a portion of the surplus to begin rebuilding our state’s Rainy Day Fund,” Hassan said.

But the governor also said she wants to put money back into the Department of Health and Human Services for programs ranging from child care to help for people with disabilities.

Rep. Robert Elliott, R-Salem, said he agreed with Hassan and would split the surplus so half goes to the Rainy Day Fund and half to DHHS.

“I’d be in favor of that,” Elliott said. “That would be the fair thing to do.”

He will look to his constituents and he said he expects they will want to use some of the money to help the needy.

Rep. Betsy Burtis, D-Derry, said she fully supports the governor’s plan to put money in the Rainy Day Fund and into DHHS.

The reserve fund had been raided for all sorts of reasons, she said.

DHHS was especially hard hit in the last budget cycle, Burtis said.

“I would be happy to see more money go there,” she said.

Rep. Kevin St. James, R-Kingston, said at this point he agrees with the governor.

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