Kevin Landrigan: NH GOP move to delay federal grant okay sparks rebuke
CONCORD - Republican leaders in the Legislature and Executive Council have pushed federal grant requests in the slow lane.
NH1 News has exclusively obtained a letter from Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn to Senate President Chuck Morse calling the policy "reckless and dangerous."
A spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan said the Democratic chief executive shares the concerns.
``The acceptance of federal funds for programs critical to public health and safety - including to help combat the opioid crisis - has long been a non-partisan issue, and Governor Hassan is concerned about delaying progress on common-sense priorities that both parties have always accepted federal funds for,'' Press Secretary William Hinkle said.
Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, had tweeted earlier today that the council had asked that state agencies withdraw 12 of 71 contract items at its meeting Wednesday for the same reason.
"I find this troubling and bureaucratic,'' Van Ostern said during a telephone interview. "These are our tax dollars we have already paid and there's no need for another bureaucratic layer to be keeping grants for substance abuse and public safety to get to their intended destinations.''
Woodburn said the Feb. 19 move of the GOP-led Fiscal Committee raises the concern that the next state budget debate remain free of partisan wrangling.
"I sincerely hope that actions by Republicans on the Legislative Fiscal Committee are not an indication the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate intend to throw away our bipartisan successes by giving into partisan and ideological ambitions,'' Woodburn said.
Among the contracts delayed were grants for substance abuse, local school district support, for firefighters and highway aid.
"These are common sense that we should all be able to agree upon,'' Woodburn continued. "Combating substance abuse and protecting our communities should not fall victim to partisan ideological battles like they did last week."
Morse has been outspoken in his desire not to approve additional spending as the current budget faces what he considers a deficit as big as $70 million.
Woodburn noted the Legislative Fiscal Committee approved grants for these programs in February 2013 without incident.
At that time, Republicans controlled the Senate but Democrats were in charge in the House of Representatives.