At a packed Bedford Sportsplex, the New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday passed HB 1 and HB 2, the state’s $13.5 billion budget, a sweeping set of proposals that cut both taxes and spending, as well as addressing social issues like abortion and Critical Race Theory.
Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem), whose chamber passed the legislation before sending it over for a final vote in the House, praised the budget’s passage.
“Crafting a responsible budget is one of our most important obligations as legislators. The new spending plan passed by both the House and Senate today reflects the promises Republicans made back in January: It’s balanced, fiscally conservative, and works for New Hampshire,” said Morse. “It includes property tax relief for New Hampshire families getting back on their feet following the pandemic, and tax cuts for our Main Street businesses also hit hard.”
“We built this budget on Republican principles and reliable revenues, and in the process, we also made certain we took care of the people of New Hampshire by making sure their concerns are our highest priority.”
House Leader Jason Osborne, who many statehouse watchers said had the hardest job in Concord getting the budget passed, called the legislation a “transformational symphony of reforms.”
Just before the vote, he took a moment to mock Democrats who spoke in opposition to the bill.
“I’d like to thank the last 20 speakers for so thoroughly selling me on House Bill 2,” Osborne said, telling NHJournal after the vote “They kept impressing on me how many taxes we were cutting and all the businesses we were helping. Who could vote no?”
Holding together his narrow majority for a 198-181 vote on HB 2 wasn’t easy, and after the House Republican caucus’ rocky start to the session, insiders wondered until the moment of the vote whether Osborne could pull together a majority.
But, Osborne said, he never doubted. “Nothing is certain, but I was confident all along,” Osborne said.
In part, the GOP leadership hung their hopes on the policies in the bill. “Is a member of the Freedom Caucus really going to vote against tax cuts, spending cuts, ending late-term abortions, and passing Education Freedom Accounts?” was the common refrain.
But Osborne said the process was just as important as the policies.
“If you include everyone from the beginning, give everyone input, make sure they’re heard – then everyone has buy-in at the end when you get to the finish line. Yes, there were some people who were disgruntled about some of the changes that came out of the other chamber and from the executive, but we stuck together.”
And while he may have been mocking them on the floor, Osborne acknowledged the tone of the Democrats’ opposition – attacking Republicans as uncaring racists and sexists, and making inaccurate claims about funding and property taxes – actually helped with the vote count.
“The final vote count had four more votes than I expected. I’ll give the Democrats credit for pushing a few over to our side.”
New Hampshire Democrats didn’t get the message and quickly pounced.
“Senate Democrats have been raising our voices long and hard about the travesty this state budget is,” Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) said after the vote. “This budget tramples on our state and national constitutions by infringing on Granite Staters’ right to free speech, it ends New Hampshire’s unbroken tradition of protecting women’s bodily autonomy, and it turns my home state into a place I no longer recognize.”
And Rep. Tom Loughton (D-Hampton) tweeted, “Who would have thought that a libertarian-controlled House majority would fail to pass marijuana legalization, restrict women’s choice, censor free speech, and increase property taxes.”
GOP Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) said Democrats’ criticism of the late-term abortion ban is way off base. “Their position is very extreme while ours puts New Hampshire among 43 other states, including President Biden’s Delaware and Vice President Harris’ California.”
Polls show more than 80 percent of Americans oppose the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s position of unlimited abortion on demand until the day of birth.
Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. He quickly praised it after its passage.
“Historic tax cuts, property tax relief, and Paid Family Medical Leave delivered all in one sweeping action is a win for every citizen and family in this state,” said Sununu. If signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1.
Sununu has made it clear he doesn’t support every aspect of the bill, but he won’t let those concerns get in the way of signing it.
Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford), agrees with Sununu that there are some parts of the bill she doesn’t love, but overall it is “fantastic.”
“Quite frankly, this vote isn’t about me. This bill, and this vote, and this job is about doing what’s best for the people of New Hampshire,” said Sanborn while speaking on the legislation.