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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Live Blogging the "Stop the Spending Summit"- Neal Kurk and Doug Scamman

Representatives Neal Kurk and Doug Scamman- House Finance Committee

Neal Kurk says over the past 15 to 20 years, he's concluded that there are great ideas to control spending, but says they are not getting implemented because of the budget process. He says the House has four to six weeks to review and approve the budget, which prevents long-term planning and reform.

He says New Hampshire is relatively effecient not because the Legislature micro-manages the budget, but because it forces department heads to manage their budgets with "back of the budget" cuts.

Kurk says major changes will require building a consensus now for the next budget process. He says working with Democrats to reduce demand through "Community Corrections" could reduce the prison population over six years. He says there isn't the information or time to do these reforms during the budget process.

He says the Legisalture should ask if current programs are fulfilling their mission. He says his sacred cow is L-CHIP, but he agreed to slaughter it this year. He says HHS killed the Multiple Offenders Program because it allows offenders to get their licenses back without paying for the program. But Kurk says he doesn't know if the program gets results. He says the state doesn't know if alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs actually work. He says an outside consultant found no difference between having the program, and not having it. But he says the Legislature won't cut funding for it.

Kurk argues that the Legislature need the political will to say "We can't afford feel-good." He would change the dynamics of programs to pay per service, versus per outcome or per patient. He agrees that transparency will give voters and lawmakers better information heading into budget season.

Doug Scamman says anyone who doesn't believe that New Hampshire has a very severe problem shouldn't have come, and that anyone who wants to solve it by raising taxes in sadly mistaken. He is concerned about continued bonding for school construction, which will push spending into the future for projects that have already been built.

Scamman says the $627 million shortfall in the next budget will actually grow as frozen state positions come back into the budget. He says if the state had gone without a position being filled for two years, it shouldn't have to fill it now.

He argues that the Legislature goes through the budget very carefully to find small areas of savings, but that without these "hunt and peck" savings, there will be no overall savings. He says this oversight helps Department heads to find more savings in their operations.

Scamman says state government can be more effecient by looking at its programs from the beginning, rather than relying on past practices. He says the Legislature in the last session never set budget goals, or set a process to meet them. He says by drifting through the budget, the Finance Committee failed to find savings, but some responsible agencies brought forward good ideas. He says the Legislature can reduce spending, and has no need to increase taxes.

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