Jim Gray of Rochester is working for a better New Hampshire
Senator Jim Gray is doing his homework and getting results. Over the past six months, Jim has been one of the most tireless and effective lawmakers in the State House, and we couldn’t have crafted a conservative and financially responsible budget for New Hampshire without him. This final budget that we delivered keeps the promises we made to manage our state’s finances, stimulate our economy, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable populations in Granite State.
Senator Gray has always been a champion for the taxpayers of Granite State. Thanks to his efforts over the past few years, New Hampshire’s economy is among the strongest in the country. In fact, our state’s unemployment rate is now lower than when the COVID-19 pandemic started. This budget cuts taxes for New Hampshire employers, reduces corporate income tax and business tax, and increases the BET filing threshold to $ 250,000. This will bring immediate relief to small businesses in New Hampshire and help create more high paying jobs for our friends and neighbors.
We are also phasing out the tax on interest and dividends on savings and retirement income, helping our seniors. We are protecting Main Street businesses that got a loan forgiveness under the Paycheque Protection Program from an unexpected tax bill, and reducing the tax on meals and rooms for the first time in decades to donate a boost to our travel and tourism industry.
This budget relieves property taxpayers at all levels. We are returning $ 100 million in statewide property tax. We are also sharing $ 188 million in tax revenue on meals and rooms with cities and towns, an increase of $ 50.5 million from the last budget, and for the first time, we are protecting this revenue sharing with a dedicated fund. We’re also increasing funding for county nursing homes by $ 29.1 million, which relieves the county portion of your property tax bill.
We promised to address funding for education, and we kept our promises. The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for our schools. Because enrollment was down last fall, our school funding formulas would have provided less funding for districts next year. We promised that would not happen, and we kept. We fixed the funding formulas and protected $ 67 million in state aid going to our local schools.
This budget also provides $ 30 million in construction assistance for new school construction projects and $ 35 million as part of the emergency fundraising plan for school districts with the most pressing budget needs. Overall, this budget increases education funding by $ 102 million over the current law for a total of $ 2.2 billion.
Jim has long been a supporter of giving New Hampshire families more control over their children’s education, and this budget expands school choice through education savings accounts for low-income New Hampshire families who need more choices in their children’s education. School choice helps students who need options to realize their educational opportunities.
We promised to protect our most vulnerable, and we kept. This budget increases support for mental health and drug addiction programs, including funding for a new forensic psychiatric hospital, additional transition beds to deal with the crisis of boarding schools in emergency rooms and full funding of the waiting list for people with disabilities. We have also set aside $ 3 million to help seniors and veterans recover from the social isolation caused by the pandemic.
In the capital budget funding our state’s infrastructure and construction projects, Jim fought for funding for the new Rochester Circuit courthouse. The final package includes $ 1.16 million for the initial engineering of this project once a suitable site has been chosen.
Outside of the budget, Jim did a remarkable job chairing the Senate Election Law Commission. He worked across the aisle to improve the way local election officials deal with absentee ballots, improved the administration of local elections, and helped build confidence in the integrity of elections from New Hampshire.
Senator Jim Gray is an invaluable member of the New Hampshire Senate. The people of District 6 should be proud of the work he does on their behalf. We certainly could not keep our promises without his calm and consistent leadership.
Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem) is President of the Senate. Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) is the majority leader in the Senate. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.