Cash-strapped communities urged lawmakers Thursday to prioritize education funding as they renegotiate the state budget two months after it was vetoed. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, meanwhile, sent school officials a revised spending proposal and said he remains willing to compromise.
Democrats, who control the Legislature, say the $13 billion, two-year budget they passed in June would have provided property tax relief and a boost to education funding while addressing the state’s most pressing problems. But Republicans argue it relied on one-time surplus funds for ongoing expenses and would drive the state toward a broad-based tax.
Speaking at a public hearing, Claremont School Board Chairman Frank Sprague told lawmakers that the increased education funding would have been transformational for his city, and that he’s angry that it remains in limbo.
“We had so much hope that we were on the road to recovery, but like so many ... fell victim to politicians who clearly believe that ZIP codes should determine opportunity,” he said. “New Hampshire students suffer by perpetuating the inequities of the have-and-have-not system, the status quo system that moves a few districts forward but many backwards.”
The vetoed budget would have increased school funding by $138 million over two years, including $76 million to restore so-called stabilization grants. Sununu’s latest proposal includes $14 million for those grants. His plan would spend an additional $131 million over two years, but $60 million would be one-time grants for infrastructure improvements.