Southern New Hampshire lawmakers expect the state budget, revenue policy and the economy to emerge as dominant themes for the legislative session that starts to unfold this week.
“A key priority is the budget and creating jobs in New Hampshire,” Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said.
A brand-new Democratic lawmaker agreed.
“Number one is going to be the budget,” Rep. Mary Till, D-Derry said. “It is going to be very difficult to do much.”
Till foresees “a big juggling act” for lawmakers as they try to balance spending priorities against limited revenues.
“The big issues start off with the budget,” Rep. Kevin St. James, R-Kingston, said.
Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, a Democratic former state senator from Exeter, takes office Thursday. She set a conservative fiscal tone earlier this month, telling department heads to prepare budgets for the 2014 fiscal year that are 3 percent below their 2013 levels.
“While we are beginning to see signs of recovery and revenue growth, we face fiscal uncertainty,” Hassan said.
She stressed budgets could be adjusted, upward or downward, depending upon what happens with revenues.
She told department heads cuts shouldn’t violate federal laws or regulations, and they should strive for innovation and efficiencies, rather than across-the-board reductions.
Hassan has said she will oppose income or sales taxes, while striving to create jobs through tax credits and technical assistance to businesses.
Any pro-commerce measures pushed by Hassan or legislators will be well received in the business community.
The Business and Industry Association recently announced its public policy priorities, which include improving the state’s research and development tax credit, lower energy costs and workforce development.
“Our focus will be on policies and initiatives that encourage New Hampshire businesses to expand and hire more workers and businesses elsewhere to expand into or relocate to New Hampshire,” BIA president Jim Roche said.