You have seen a lot of references to “compromise budgets” and negotiations. You deserve some clarifications. When the budget was vetoed, we passed our deadline. Once that happens, it takes a 2/3 vote to introduce a new bill. This means that House Democrats must find some way to get Republican votes to pass something. This happened in 2015 when Governor Hassan vetoed the Republican budget. Republican leadership had to negotiate not only with the Governor, but most importantly, with House Democrats. All sides must make a few concessions, and then you have a budget. Simple.
Sadly, House Democrats have forgotten how this is done. The compromise you heard about was between House and Senate Democrats. No negotiations have taken place with House Republicans. The Speaker has not even allowed House Republican leadership to attend the negotiations with the Governor. it is impossible to get to a compromise when they refuse to talk to us.
It gets worse. House Democratic leadership drafted a new budget last week, which was also called a compromise despite no one else having any input. This 800 plus page document was given to House Republican leaders mid-morning on a day we were voting on other veto overrides. If we wanted to suggest any amendments, we had about 6 hours to go through it all and file the amendments by 4PM. If we had done that, the team we would have put on it would not be in the House Chamber voting on the day’s business, which increases the Democrats margin for winning those votes. That’s dirty.
Since these bills have had no public hearings and are written outside the normal process, it takes a 2/3 vote to allow them to come forward. The trick is to get it allowed in. After that, they can do anything they like with a simple majority vote. We were actually told by the Majority Leader during the debate on introducing the bill that we were all free to amend it during the debate. That isn’t true. We had until 4pm the previous day to file those amendments. It probably sounded nice and accommodating for the press. It simply sounded disingenuous to us. The Speaker Pro Tempore rubbed a little salt in. She said that if we voted to allow the bill in, we could recess and have the Legislative Budget Office explain it to us before the vote. The deception behind all this is that once the bill was allowed in, they could easily pass it over our objections. If they were serious, they could have had the LBA in to explain it before the first vote.
So, there have been no compromises because we haven’t been asked yet. We have not even been granted a conversation. For those who have forgotten 2015, maybe they could reread the history and see how it works. We are ready to work on this. We are awaiting the Speaker’s permission to begin doing so.
Representative Steven Smith
Senior Republican Advisor, NH House