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Column: A budget that works for New Hampshire

To the Valley News
Published: 6/24/2021 10:09:57 PM
Modified: 6/24/2021 10:10:06 PM

A year ago, in the middle of the pandemic, with most New Hampshire businesses closed, many were forecasting doom and gloom about the future solvency of New Hampshire’s government.

No one at that time would have believed that just 12 months later, Republicans would be able to craft a budget that is not only balanced and fiscally responsible, but provides increased funding for many of our top priorities, while providing tax relief for property tax payers and small businesses.

But that is exactly what the New Hampshire Senate Republican budget does.

First and foremost, this budget looks out for the taxpayer. This budget provides relief to our struggling Main Streets by reducing the business enterprise tax and the business profits tax to give small businesses more breathing room while they continue to recover from the past year. We are phasing out the interest and dividends tax to protect seniors’ hard-earned retirement funds.

Finally, we are fulfilling our promise by sending $100 million directly back to the property taxpayers and returning more than $188 million dollars from the meals and rooms tax back to the towns for property tax relief. For the first time, 30% of the revenue from the meals and rooms tax will be placed into a trust fund for distribution to the towns to lower our property tax burden.

As the chair of the Senate Education Committee, one of my highest priorities has been expanding school choice for students and parents. As I’ve written many times, not all students learn the same way, and sometimes a one-size-fits-all education does not work for all students. This budget creates “education freedom accounts” for low-income families. These accounts will allow families to decide the best education path for their children. If students excel in the arts or sciences, they may be able to choose a specialized program tailored to these pursuits. If children with special needs are interested in a school that will better fit their education path, they will have the opportunity to attend no matter the family income level. Thanks to this budget, low-income Granite Staters will finally have the educational opportunities previously only attainable by higher-income families.

The isolation that many experienced during the pandemic has brought about increased pressure on our already strained mental health care system. This budget takes huge strides toward righting this wrong. We have fully funded the new forensic psychiatric hospital and invested heavily in community and mobile mental crisis teams. Additionally, we allocate $3 million specifically to aid our veterans and seniors who have experienced mental health issues as a result of the pandemic.

This budget invests in protecting our environment and the health of our families by providing $15.6 million in state aid grants to protect our water. It also consolidates the Public Utilities Commission and Office of Strategic Initiative into a new Department of Energy to guide energy policy decisions such as the development of offshore wind power.

I am very proud of the work that New Hampshire Senate Republicans did on this budget. While our friends on the other side of the aisle ultimately decided not to support this budget because of the tax cuts, among other items, there is much in the budget that many Granite State Democrats will also be very happy with. This budget invests in education and our environment.

It provides property tax payers with much needed relief and a lifeline for struggling small businesses. This budget helps to pull our state out of the pandemic in a stronger position for our future. This budget truly works for New Hampshire.

Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, represents District 8 in the New Hampshire Senate and chairs the Senate Education Committee.

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