By John Toole
---- — CONCORD – Legislative Republicans are lashing out at Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan over her proposed budget.
House Republicans are leading the fight, as Hassan works with key Senate Republicans for passage of a gaming expansion bill that could put $80 million from casino licensing into the budget.
The action unfolded at the Statehouse yesterday.
Hassan appeared before the Senate Ways and Means Committee to push for the casino bill, while addressing a joint session of the Senate and House Finance panels about her budget proposal.
House GOP leaders, meanwhile, unloaded on the governor at a press conference where they criticized her for relying on gambling, questioned her revenue assumptions and said the budget proposal would hurt businesses.
“Nothing will get us, this state, in any more trouble than unrealistic revenue projections,” said House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett.
Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, described the revenue estimates as “exaggerated” and said the budget has another problem, about $1 billion in increased spending.
Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, said Hassan is reversing tax reforms the Legislature just passed.
“This does not give employers a sense of predictability and stability, and increases their tax burden,” Sanborn said.
Hassan, meanwhile, defended her budget yesterday in appearances before the Senate Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees.
“The budget plan that we present today is a fiscally responsible proposal, balanced with no income or sales tax, that is focused on innovation, economic growth, and creating good jobs to support a strong middle class,” Hassan said.
Contrary to Republican criticism, Hassan said her budget is making responsible revenue choices.
The budget would make critical investments in public safety, higher education, economic development and health care to put New Hampshire on a path to a strong, innovative economic future, Hassan said.
The governor’s office said the plan cuts state agency general fund budget requests by more than $500 million and keeps general fund spending below 2008 levels.
Hassan last week said her budget would enable state colleges to freeze tuition.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley last week noted Republicans were criticizing the plan even before Hassan detailed her budget in an address to the full Legislature.
Buckley said Hassan is fulfilling her campaign promise to create jobs and support a strong middle class.
He said it is “disappointing and sad” that Republicans are attacking Hassan and shows the party remains firmly in the grasp of far right Tea Party backers.