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Education Loses in Governor's Budget Veto

New Hampshire relies heavily on local property taxes to fund education. The budget proposal vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu included $138 million for schools. (U.S. Department of Education)
New Hampshire relies heavily on local property taxes to fund education. The budget proposal vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu included $138 million for schools. (U.S. Department of Education)
July 3, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. - This summer's fireworks in New Hampshire are likely to be at the State House, as legislators and the governor try to work out a compromise budget to run the state for the next two years.

Gov. Chris Sununu is getting pushback from groups such as the New Hampshire School Funding Fairness Project, for vetoing a budget last week that contained nearly $140 million for education and another $40 million for towns and cities. John Tobin, who chairs the school-funding advocacy group, said Sununu's veto favors large, out-of-state corporations at the expense of local residents.

"It's a harmful budget for property-tax payers and schools," he said. "New Hampshire relies more on local property taxes than any other state. The Legislature proposed some modest steps away from that. The governor is choosing to give tax relief to big businesses instead of property-tax payers."

Sununu, a Republican, objected to Democrats rolling back some business tax cuts in order to find additional funding for schools and communities. An interim, three-month budget provides another deadline for the governor and state lawmakers to reach a compromise.

Maintaining the status quo of relying on local property taxes to fund schools has created major inequities among communities that affect the quality of education, said Tobin. His group thinks it's critical that state lawmakers make it a priority to create more stable funding sources.

"Communities have greatly different capacities to raise those taxes," he said. "So, some people are paying five times, six times as much for the same service education. And we can't say, 'Well, we're not going to fund our schools and we're going to hammer property-tax payers because we won't do the planning and take the steps to ensure that there is revenue.' "

In his veto message, available online at governor.nh.gov, Sununu said the Legislature's proposed budget would have threatened New Hampshire's economic growth and small businesses. However, he said, his door is open to working with lawmakers.

Kevin Bowe, Public News Service - NH