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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fiscal Accepts More Stimulus Cash

The Legislative Fiscal Committee this morning accepted another $20 million in federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. This funding comes on top of the $542 million New Hampshire had already received through the federal stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year.

The $20 million will go towards ten projects spread over the state Departments of Labor, Environmental Services, Health and Human Services, and Resources and Economic Development. The ten-member Fiscal Committee, composed of both Representatives and Senators, accepted every item on today's agenda without debate, as well as four additional items that were taken up without prior public notice.

The only item to generate debate was a transfer of $8,435,000 within the Department of Environmental Services from a Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund to the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. Responding to an inquiry from Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare), a DES official stated that the move was intended to help communities qualify for 50% loan forgiveness under ARRA, and that the Clean Water fund had a surplus balance not needed to support the program.

Committee members also questioned HHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas extensively about his response to rising caseloads not anticipated in the Department's two-year budget. Toumpas says that acceptance of federal funds under ARRA prevents the state from altering its eligibility requirements for overstretched programs for the next 15 months.

Following its business meeting, the Fiscal Committee reviewed an audit on the state Board of Pharmacy, which found that the six-member voluntary board lacked organizational structure, adequate financial controls, or a formal fraud preventing and detection program.

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