Senate budget writers voted yesterday to fully restore the state’s renewable energy fund, a program that gives financial incentives to residents and businesses that install technology including solar panels or wind turbines.
The House-approved budget took more than $50 million from the renewable energy fund, effectively wiping out its balance over the next two-year budget cycle. The move provoked outcry from advocates, who said draining the fund would cripple the state’s growing renewable energy industry.
The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to restore the funding, and criticized dedicated fund raids.
“This is the wrong way to build a budget,” said Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem. “We made it clear the Senate was not going to hit dedicated funds.”
The move comes at a cost and means Senate budget writers will have to find that money elsewhere as they continue work on the state’s next two-year budget, set to take effect July 1. Members will likely save decisions regarding funding for large state agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, until the Senate finalizes its revenue projections that show how much money the state has to spend.
The Republican-controlled Senate will vote on a budget plan in early June, before lawmakers from both chambers meet to negotiate details and then send a final product to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
During a committee session yesterday, senators opted to remove a repeal of the state’s mandatory minimum sentences from the budget, language the House added as a cost-saving measure. The committee also voted unanimously to continue paying local communities their full share of flood control payments, required under decades-old agreements between New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Under the 1950s-era Merrimack River flood compact, 14 communities in Greater Concord gave up land for flood control to protect cities and towns downstream. New Hampshire and Massachusetts pay the communities – which include Hopkinton, Henniker, Webster, Weare and Dunbarton – to make up for lost tax revenue.
When Massachusetts doesn’t cover its 70 percent share of compact payment, New Hampshire has traditionally paid the towns and then sought the money from the Bay State.
The House budget would have made New Hampshire responsible only for its 30 percent share. The Senate change will require the state to continue paying the full compact amount to affected communities.
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