House Majority Leader Comments on Fiscal Committee Vote on Gateway to Work Items

CONCORD – House Majority Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) offered the following comments relative to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee vote on Friday that failed to remove items from the table related to funding for the Gateway to Work program, thereby precluding action on the items by the committee.

“On the same day a document was presented that stated the Department of Health and Human Services is dealing with a $47 million deficit, the Fiscal Committee was asked to reexamine spending millions of dollars on Gateway to Work,” said Hinch. “You can’t simultaneously have a large operating deficit, and suggest a new spending program is in order before you examine ways to fix the existing deficit. Plus, there are additional yet-to-be determined costs to the TANF fund as a result of a state Supreme Court decision. We can’t realistically look at drawing down the TANF fund until the implications of this court opinion are determined.”

Hinch added, “At a time where we have unemployment at less than three percent, is it the right use of funds to spend over $35,000 per person to administer this program for about 230 people? Most people agree with the concept of job training, but in this case, the cost per person equals that of roughly 2 years of education at our community colleges. It’s just not clear to us how this program comes at the right time for the right cost.”

“If the governor was a full time employee, appropriately supervising her department heads and managing the budget, I would hope she would have thought this through. Instead, we have a proposal that circumvents the normal legislative process, and shuffles money around in a department that is already in deficit.”

Background: The Fiscal Committee item sought to use $8.3 million of TANF funds to administer the Gateway to Work program for a 6 month period (source document, page 69). The DHHS dashboard, an informational item received by the committee, stated that the department had identified a potential budget deficit of $46.9 million (source document, page 224). On Tuesday, the NH Supreme Court issued an opinion that may affect how the state determines TANF benefits (source document).