Governess Margaret Wood Hassan will present her Budget Address to the General Court today at one o’clock in Representatives Hall. It’s an annual ritual where Democratic governors paint themselves and their proposals as fiscally conservative, whatever the reality. In advance of the governor’s address, Senate Finance Committee Chair Jeanie Forrester threw a gauntlet of sorts, releasing a statement saying quote: “In the senate we have been focused on making budget reforms involving the Rainy Day Fund, Dedicated Funds, and Business Taxes in order to provide a stronger foundation for the next budget.” Forrester said she hoped Hassan would join Senate Republican efforts to lower the state’s business taxes, which are the highest in New England and the second highest in the nation and present a quote un quote realistic plan to pay for the commuter rail project she’s championing.
Hassan’s under fire for her handling of the current budget which, by some estimates, is nearly one hundred million dollars in the red, despite the fact that overall revenues are slightly ahead of projections. Her proposal to take seven million dollars away from the state’s county nursing homes has created a firestorm with critics noting the nursing homes didn’t cause the budget problem and the budget passed expressly prevents the governor from transferring those funds.
Yesterday, Forrester also took aim at the governess by introducing Senate Bill two of five, along with eight Republican co-sponsors, including Majority Leader Jeb Bradley. The bill is a direct response to Hassan’s refusal to release public documents regarding her out of state travel sought by New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Horn. Hassan’s refused to release the information claiming that the Attorney General’s Office said she’s not subject to the law. Hey, it’s always good when your governor is above the law, isn’t it? Anyway, Forrester’s bill amends the state’s Right to Know Law, R S A 91-A, to expressly include the governor and also adds the governor’s office and the legislature to the law which prohibits electioneering while in the performance of official duties. It ought to be fun to see what happens when this one reaches Her Highness’ desk.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Hooksett School Board held a quickly called special meeting last night to determine whether or not it would recommend the budget as amended by the Deliberative Session. Folks there added more than one hundred eighty thousand dollars back to the budget, so, to meet the requirements of state law, the board had to vote on whether or not to recommend it to voters. On a three to two vote, with Joanne McHugh, Mike Berry and James Sullivan in favor and Amy Boilard and John Lyscars opposed, the board voted to recommend the budget. Todd Lizotte and David Pearl were absent.
Despite talk that the board’s impromptu, and we believe improper, votes during the Deliberative Session would be raised for discussion, they weren’t. In light of a recent story from Salem, brought to our attention by yet another loyal listener, they might want to reconsider. Salem’s town attorney determined the Budget Committee violated state law when it voted after the deliberative session Saturday to no longer recommend that voters support construction of a twenty three point four million dollar public safety complex. According to a story we’ve linked to in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, committee members gathered in the hallway at Salem High School and voted to change their recommendation. The town’s attorney Barton Mayer, a lawyer with Upton & Hatfield, notified the town that under state statute, the committee cannot change its recommendation on an article unless it was amended at the deliberative session.
The giant cracking sound you heard last night at just after nine o’clock was the noise made by the Manchester Board of School Committee as it caved into the baseless financial threats levied by the state and federal governments to withhold federal funding from the state’s schools should the school district not administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment at its meeting last night..
Ward One Committeewoman Sarah Ambrogi moved to direct the administration to administer the test this year noting the board’s vote not to use the controversial Common Core aligned test was predicated on getting a waiver it will not get. She called it the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Ward Eleven Committeewoman Kate Desrochers argued that her red shirt wearing colleagues who claim to support teachers should change their vote to spare them the layoffs that would come if the funds disappeared.
Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry bristled at the implication he was either not supportive of fiscal responsibility or teachers. He said he’d done his homework and that there were multiple states that had backed out of the Smarter Balanced or PARCC assessments with no loss of federal funds.
Mayor Ted Gatsas said the board should act in the best interests of kids and that making them take that test wasn’t in their best interest, nor was it in the district’s. He recounted his meeting with Board of Education Chair Tom Raffio who said the state was hoping to ditch Smarter Balance next year in favor of the PSAT, which the city wants to use this year and asked what sense does it make for the city to change what it wants to do if the state’s going to do it next year.
Gatsas referred to Chicago, where he spoke with union officials who back their school board’s decision not to use the assessment despite the threatened loss of more than one BILLION dollars. He also referred to California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision not to engage the Smarter Balanced Assessment after learning it would cost his state one BILLION to implement the test.
Gatsas asked for a motion to table noting that the feds will make decisions on those bigger states and districts within the next two weeks. That motion failed with only himself, Ward Two’s Deb Langton, Ward five’s Ted Rokas, Ward Sixes Robyn Dunphy and Beaudry joining him. The Battle ended with only Gatsas, Langton, Dunphy and Beaudry opposed to giving the test. At-Large Committeeman David Whiby and Ward Ten’s John Avard were absent. We’ll have more.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large Hour ___ is queued up and ready to go!