Home budget writers eliminate student loan forgiveness program
By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORDE – Subcommittees of the House finance committee have decided to end or significantly reduce two education programs that Governor Chris Sununu touted in his budget speech.
One is a student loan cancellation program for high-demand occupations like health care, which would use the income generated by the state scholarship program, and the other is the governor’s infrastructure fund. school to help schools improve Internet connectivity and building security.
At its meeting on Monday, the Division II committee approved an amendment that removed the House Bill 2 loan cancellation program, allowing the Tuition Fee Savings Plan Advisory Committee instead. New Hampshire College to decide how to allocate funds between the UNIQUE program and the Governor’s scholarship program.
Sununu proposed that 60% of the proceeds of the New Hampshire Excellence in Higher Education Endowment Trust Fund be used for student debt cancellation, 20% for direct scholarships, and 20% for the UNIQUE program endowment.
Officials from the New Hampshire university system told the subcommittee last month that the loan cancellation would redirect around $ 10 million from scholarship programs for low-income people to the loan cancellation program.
Division II President Rep Karen Umberger R-Kearsarge said the change eliminates the loan cancellation program in HB 2 and allows the commission to decide how to allocate the proceeds among the scholarship programs, noting that Division I had removed the money allocated for the cancellation of the loan from the section of the proposed budget that it is developing.
Representative Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough, said concerns had been expressed about one fund being drained into the other and questioned whether the amendment addresses that concern.
Umberger said the decision would rest with the advisory board she had the most confidence in to make the best decision for the state.
She said she understands that there is still money available in the governor’s scholarship program.
“The governor wanted to show he cared about the cost of education,” Umberger said, “so that there is money available in government funds.”
Committee member Rep. Robert Lynn R-Windham said he was not entirely sure the loan cancellation program was a bad idea, but the change proposed by the committee is likely the good thing to do.
The subcommittee voted 7-0 to remove HB 2’s loan cancellation program.
School infrastructure fund
Sununu also suggested that $ 30 million go to the school infrastructure fund, which was established in 2017 with $ 20 million and the following year an additional $ 10 million was added.
Several committee members asked if there was a waiting list for additional projects, and Caitlin Davis of the Department of Education said there was.
She said it consists of 59 projects worth $ 1.2 million.
Several committee members suggested that these projects could be addressed with the $ 350 million in federal funds for schools included in the state’s $ 1.54 billion allocation of the US bailout.
Davis told the subcommittee that using the money for schools was the most flexible she had ever seen for federal funds.
Umberger said she believed there were other things more important than using $ 30 million for the school infrastructure fund, and offered to keep $ 1 million and use the rest. for other items they believe should be included in the budget, such as the catastrophic costs of special education.
“There are better uses for this money overall,” Umberger said.
The subcommittee also agreed to move the dual enrollment program allowing high school students to take courses from the Community College System of New Hampshire to earn college credit.
The Department of Education currently administers the program, but has not included money for it in its proposed budget and the governor’s budget proposal reflects this.
Umberger said the community college system agreed to administer the program.
The subcommittee approved the change of administration on a 7-0 vote, but suspended the vote on a proposal to provide $ 1.5 million per year for the program until it can determine whether some of this money would be needed to cover administration costs.
The subcommittee hopes to complete its work on its section of the budget by Friday.
Next week, the House finance committee will hear proposals from its three subdivisions and vote on its budget proposal.
Budget briefings for House members will take place on April 6 and the House will have to vote on the budget package of two bills by April 9.
Sununu proposed an operating budget of $ 13.8 billion, a 5.6% increase from the current budget ending June 30, and then suggested an additional $ 70 million in spending in light of the growth. of state revenues.
In general spending and education funds, Sununu’s proposed budget would spend $ 5.45 billion, a decrease of $ 41 million from the current spending plan.
The House’s revenue estimates are lower than the governor’s, so the House’s recommended budget will likely be lower than Sununu has proposed.
Garry Rayno can be contacted at [email protected]