New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announces a series of emergency orders March 17, 2020, in Concord, N.H., in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
(The Center Square) – With New Hampshire facing a budget shortfall due to revenue declines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a fiscal policy analyst estimates it’s currently about 5 percent under where the numbers should be in the education and general trust funds.
“That shortfall is just based on really the revenue drop that we’ve seen in the last quarter of state fiscal year 2020,” Phil Sletten, senior analyst with the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, told WMUR. “And now we’re in fiscal year 2021 and we’re likely going to see a shortfall at several hundred million dollars more and … the budget will be further out of balance, if you will, this fiscal year.”
The shortfalls are expected to affect many state programs. Gov. Chris Sununu indicated at the outset of the pandemic that there would need to be significant budget cuts across the state.
“The projections have gotten a little bit more optimistic over time, a little better as we’ve had updates,” Sletten said. “But it’s still very variable at this point, in part because the economic crisis is driven by the public health crisis and it’s difficult to know where it’s going at this point.”
Current estimates indicate public education and human services would not see funding reductions.
“So, there are $139 million in additional aid under this state budget relative to what the policies would have been under the prior state budget that go to local public education,” Sletten said. “And that is important because not only are local governments, you know, facing potentially increased costs, especially school districts. Some of those costs can be paid for by existing federal aid, but there are likely going to be shortfalls on the revenue side by property taxes.”
The current budget also includes investments in a number of health initiatives, including children’s services, Sletten said.
“We’ve seen investments in child welfare, child protection and services for those with developmental disabilities,” Sletten said. “All of those received fairly significant investments in the current state budget, and many of those areas are places where we may see increased need during the pandemic and the recovery from the pandemic,” Sletten said.