Sununu, NH lawmakers fight for power over purse strings

CONCORD, N.H. (WCAX) In New Hampshire, the governor's office and the Legislature squared off in court on Monday over who has the power to spend money during the coronavirus crisis.

Lawyers for lawmakers say the state Constitution gives the power of the purse to the Legislature. They maintain that decisions on how to spend over a billion dollars in federal funding must be approved by the Legislative Fiscal Committee.

The solicitor general, representing Gov. Chris Sununu, countered that a law put in place after 9/11 gives the governor the power to declare an emergency and act decisively.

"This is exactly the type of situation that the Legislature was contemplating and that what the Legislature did is give the governor those powers he needs," said Dan Will, New Hampshire's solicitor general.

"The executive branch prepares proposed appropriations that deal with an emergency, then presents those to the fiscal committee for its advice and consent and this governor should be no different," said Greg Silverman, the legal counsel for the New Hampshire Senate.

At the end of the two-hour hearing, Hillsborough County Judge David Anderson said he would issue a ruling as soon as possible.